Imagine parking your car at your home at the end of a work day and scooping up your children as they run to meet you. You sit around the dinner table just like always and play a board game with your kids before reading them a story and tucking them in to bed, only to shake them awake a few hours later and run for your life as bombs drop all around you.
That is what happened in Syria five years ago. That is what is continuing to happen in Syria.
“The lives they were living, prior to the conflict are very similar to the day to day lives we live here, except for situations out of their control,” said Julie McKinlay, a program manager with World Vision Canada. “The difference with Syria that I think was so shocking for me to being with, is, it’s not the African context we hear about so often, which is the under-developed countries, people with limited education, things like that. Syria is a middle-income country with highly-educated citizens that were business owners, that were doctors, that were teachers, that had nice houses, had homes, their children went to school, and the situation that has evolved has decimated the country.”
McKinlay recently returned to Campbell River after spending five and a half months in Jordan – a country bordering Syria – managing refugee projects that are sponsored by the Canadian government through World Vision.
Just as she was leaving, two projects were wrapping up and another was being introduced.
One project was focused on improving water and sanitation and increasing hygiene awareness in schools. Another was looking at protection, education and developing economic resilience through the use of renewable energy. A third project, called the ‘No Lost Generation’ initiative, is working to protect Syrian refugee children and get them in school.
Half of all Syrian refugees are children, McKinley said, and some of them have been out of school for five years. On average right now, refugees are displaced from their country for seventeen years, and when they get to return home, the next generation will need to be in charge of rebuilding the country and many of them may not have finished their education. No Lost Generation is one of the many projects looking at mitigating that.
While abroad McKinlay spent a lot of time in the office, writing reports and replying to emails, she also made it into the field to see the projects and meet with the beneficiaries.
“Yes it’s hard because you see those challenging situations, on the flip side if makes those days in the office seem all the more worthwhile,” she said. “You actually see that it is not just about the 60 page report, there is always a face and a story behind all of the numbers. It is easy to start quoting some of the big number statistics but it actually brings it back home that those are children, those are women, those are people, they aren’t just numbers.”
This is McKinlay’s second stint abroad with World Vision since completing her post graduate degree in international project management. One of her final assignments was to create a proposal for an agency that was working in Pakistan after an earthquake. The project was approved and fully funded.
So McKinlay obviously believes that Canada should be supporting the Syrian refugees as well as the many other people in crisis around the world.
“There is a dual responsibility in todays global society,” she said. “We can’t stick within our own borders and think it isn’t going to have an impact on a larger scale.”
Though McKinlay does believe there is work that needs to be done within Canada, she doesn’t separate between helping people within the country and people outside of the country.
“They are people, like us,” she said.
So, what can we do to help? McKinlay said money is what is needed most, as well as continued awareness of the crisis and advocating for a political resolution.
June 20 is World Refugee Day. Use the hashtag #helpthemdreamagain on your social media posts to show your support and raise awareness for the Syrian refugees across the world.