Development and Peace increases its work with Syrian refugees

July 24, 2014

As Syrians continue to escape the civil war in their country, Development and Peace is increasing its support to those affected by this ongoing conflict. 

It has renewed its current partnerships with Caritas Jordan and Caritas Lebanon, with additional funding from the Canadian government, in providing medical aid and other critical services to refugees. These services are of particular importance as many refugees arrive with medical issues and psychological scars that require immediate treatment. Many refugees also live in overcrowded quarters, where hygiene can become an issue. 

With now close to 3 million refugees who have left Syria, local governments are strained to meet the needs of those arriving daily. Caritas Internationalis is calling for increased support from the international community in dealing with this crisis, saying “It is crucial to strengthen international solidarity with regards to the suffering of Syrians, while at the same time by sharing in the burden taken on by host countries in the region.” 

Last year, Development and Peace launched an appeal to raise funds to respond to this crisis. Thanks to the generosity of Canadians, we raised $2.5 million, which is helping over 200,000 people. In addition to working with Caritas Lebanon and Caritas Jordan, we are working with several other local organizations in the region, and recently began a new project with Jesuit Refugee Services (JRS) in Jordan to help refugees gain access to education and improve their well-being after the trauma of fleeing their homeland. 

Jordan has taken in over 600,000 refugees since violence erupted in Syria three years ago.  Refugees arriving daily in Jordan include not only Syrians, but also Iraqi, Somali and Sudanese refugees, who had taken refuge in Syria when the country was at peace. Many of the refugees arrive with few possessions and are often separated from family members, adding to their pain and vulnerability.

JRS is easing their suffering by helping them to integrate into their new surroundings and to gain access to much-needed services, such as education and medical aid. The project is centred in the urban areas of Amman, Irbid and Ramtha, where many refugees have taken residence, instead of migrating to camps. As such, they experience a sense of isolation and have difficulty knowing where to go to receive aid and other services.

Through this project, JRS organizes teams that include a social worker and a psychologist, to visit families. These teams not only provide emotional support, but they also inform families of their rights and available services, and connect them with other families living similar experiences. The team members are often refugee themselves, which creates an important sense of solidarity, trust and understanding, and means that teams are closely attuned to the culture and values of the communities with whom they work. 

JRS also runs an education and sports program to ensure that children are not missing out on the opportunity to continue their education. The main goal is to provide children with the foundation they need to integrate into Jordanian schools, however, it also provides children with the opportunity to socialize in an environment that is safe and supportive. JRS also offers literacy and computer classes to adults, so they too can build a sense of community.  

Development and Peace is also working with JRS in Syria, where, despite excessively challenging circumstances, is managing to bring aid to the community. It is distributing essential items for daily life, such as bedding and hygiene kits, as well as offering medical services. 

The courageous work of JRS in Syria was recently recognized by an award from Pax Christi International. It, and Caritas Jordan, were also awarded the Prix Caritas for their work with Syrian refugees. Watch here Fr. Mourad Abou Seif, Project Director at JRS, describing how this crisis is affecting Syrians.