This week marks five years since the outbreak of the civil war in Syria, which has claimed more than 270,000 lives, caused 4.8 million Syrians to flee their country as refugees, and displaced 6.6 million Syrians within their own country.
While last month’s the truce between government and opposition forces provides a hope for lasting peace, Syrian refugees throughout the Middle East and Europe face an uncertain future. Refugee camps are struggling to keep up with growing numbers of migrants, and several countries have reduced the number of refugees they’re willing to take in.
Thanks to your support of this relief fund, many refugees’ prospects are considerably brighter. Today I’d like to share three stories that illustrate the impact you’ve had over the last five years through our partners on the ground.
Since 2012, Japan Emergency NGO (JEN) has worked in Za’atari, Jordan’s largest refugee camp, where more than 80,000 Syrians reside. JEN has ensured access to clean water and sanitation, promoted hygiene measures to prevent disease outbreaks, and delivered supplies to help refugees weather the harsh winters.
Last fall, in an effort to promote greater collaboration and understanding among the camp’s residents, the local population, and NGOs, JEN organized a football tournament (or soccer, to our American readers). The tournament was a huge success, and in addition to fostering camaraderie, JEN used the tournament as an opportunity to distribute hygiene kits and teach daily hygiene practices to children through role playing.
Due to changing admittance policies for asylum seekers, many Syrian families have found themselves in limbo, residing in camps in the Balkans until asylum opportunities improve elsewhere in Europe.
One such family recently arrived in a camp in Krnjaca, Serbia, just outside Belgrade, with three young children — five-year-old Muhamed, his younger brother Mamun, and their baby sister Arba. Since leaving Damascus a year ago, they’ve traveled between camps in Lebanon, Turkey, Germany, Croatia, and now Serbia in search of a safe haven.
Pomoc deci, a Serbian NGO supporting refugees in Krnjaca, welcomed them to the camp and made sure their family had necessary supplies for the winter—warm jackets and shoes, blankets, tents—and provided toys for the children and psycho-social assistance.
Food insecurity is a major issue facing many Syrian refugees. Since few are able to find employment in their host countries, they’re often wholly reliant on aid organizations in order to feed their families.
Near East Foundation (NEF) is improving this situation through cost-effective urban agriculture, and recently shared a story of their work with a woman named Araxi. She fled Syria three years ago with her family of four and now lives in Bourj Hammoud, a city outside Beirut, Lebanon. Like many of the 18,000 refugees in the city, Araxi’s family struggles to earn enough money to put food on the table in addition to paying for housing and school for her two children. With help from NEF, Araxi installed a vertical garden kit in her home and now is able to grow onions, garlic, thyme, marjoram, and mint, saving money she’d otherwise spend at the market while improving her family’s diet.
With support from more than 6,600 donors like you in 65 countries, these are just a few of the success stories you’ve helped make possible. Thank you so much for bringing hope to those in need these last five years.
Sincerely,Britt Lake + the GlobalGiving Team
P.S. If you’d like to spread the word about the situation facing Syrian refugees and the vital work our partners are doing to help them, you can help by sharing this factsheet on social media.
Dear Project of the Month Club,
Did you know that over the past five months your donations have spanned across five different continents? From protecting rainforests in Australia to educating children in Nepal, there’s no limit to the amount of good you’re doing across the world!
Before we introduce the next destination of your donations, let’s take a look at the impact you made in February.
Last month, 273 of you gave a total of $8,946 to support Step for Bulgaria Foundation’s Teach life skills to children without parents project, which provides teens in Bulgaria with the necessary skills and education they need to lead independent, successful lives into adulthood.
For March we’re taking you all the way to South America with Camino Verde’s Turning carbon footprints into healthy soils project, which is improving soil quality in Peru by adding charcoal (or “bio-char”) to soil. This captures carbon for hundreds of years and improves the soil’s ability to hold nutrients!
Robin Van Loon, the Executive Director at Camino Verde, has this message for you:
“Thank you, Project of the Month Club members! Our team was thrilled to hear that our project was selected for March. After a great start to the year, your welcome support comes at an especially impactful time. Together we will make March a more carbon neutral month.”
When we asked Robin about her plans for your donations, she had some pretty incredible ideas:
“The timing of your support couldn't be better. After a period of researching carbon sequestration strategies from around the world, we recently selected what we believe to be the most impactful, scalable strategy to implement in partnership with small farmers in the Peruvian Amazon.
“Thanks to your contribution, we will be able to begin installation of our very first Adam Retort, a clean, efficient technology that allows the carbon captured by plants as biomass to be stored almost indefinitely in the form of bio-char. Bio-char is then used by farmers to improve their soils — an elegant win-win. We will literally be able to weigh the carbon removed from the atmosphere. It's our plan to work closely with our farmer partners to measure the impact that bio-char has on their farm's fertility and therefore their livelihood.
“We're grateful for your help in creating a holistic approach to climate change that has a real, measurable impact on greenhouse gases while improving the lives of farmers and the health of their agro-ecological farms. We'll keep you posted on how it goes!”
Your contributions will not only have an impact on farming communities in Peru, but will also help the Earth for years to come. Thank you so much for your continuous support and we can’t wait to see the impact you make next month!
Mari Kuraishi + the GlobalGiving Team
P.S. Our friends at MindLeaps wanted to show you exactly how your donations from January are being used. Check out this "thank you" video MindLeaps made especially for Project of the Month Club!
Thank you all so much for donating to my fundraiser and/or signing up to receive these project reports. As I couldn't commit enough time for a traditional travel blog, this will be my way of keeping you all up to date on my trip. Having arrived on the 19th, my first week has already been an eventful one.
Last week, I spent my day off exploring the ATM Cave just outside San Ignacio, Belize. Short for Actun Tunichil Muknal, the ATM Cave was used by the Maya for religious purposes as early as 300 AD (or CE, whatever you prefer). But it wasn't until about 800 AD that the Maya began venturing farther into the caves to perform various rituals, particularly sacrifices, evidence of which can still be seen today. For the Maya, caves were and continue to be extremely sacred spaces. The ATM Cave was believed to be a kind of gateway to the underworld, and the only humans seen fit to enter this purgatory were religious leaders and local rulers, and even then only in desperate times.
When you enter the cave, you spend the first ten minutes swimming through crystal clear water as the light from outside slowly fades to darkness. Thankfully we had headlamps, which is more than I can say for the candle-lit cave tour that I did in Semuc Champey, Guatemala. As you make your way around huge boulders, through tiny cracks, and up the endless tunnels of limestone, you begin to pass shards of ceramics and the remenants of ancient stoneware. As I crept across slippery rocks and pushed past sheets of rushing water, I kept wondering how the hell these people managed to make it while carrying huge slabs of rock and heavy clay pots. How?!
Finally, the cave opens into a massive chamber with cathedral ceilings and towering columns of stalacmites and stalactites. The walls are dripping with calcite-laced water, creating these icicle-shaped rock formations that glitter under the light of your headlamp. As you continue up the steady incline of rock, you pass enormous clay vessels interspersed with tiny bones belonging to the victims of ancient ritual sacrifices. Further adding to the ambiance, our guide informed us that a number of these skeletons belong to monkeys and infants. Yes, you read that correctly. The Maya often sacrificed infants because they believed that the purity of their souls would be more likely to appease the gods.
When you reach the final chamber, you find yourself face-to-face with a nearly complete female skeleton, stretched delicately across the dirt floor where she died more than 1000 years ago. She is unique in that her bones have been calcified and thus glimmer faintly under the glow of headlamps, and in that her crushed vertebrae indicates a particuarly violent death. I was thoroughly creeped out at this point, and we all kept a quick pace as we silently made our way back out of the underground maze. I breathed a sigh of relief as we stepped back into the sunshine at the mouth of the cave and as we hiked down the path, I couldn't help but feel like a rather unimportant speck in the vast history of our planet.
Now, several days later, I find myself living at the lush jungle paradise that is Belize Bird Rescue. Just outside Belmopan, the capital city of Belize, BBR is home to Nikki and Jerry—a British couple from Southampton that came to this country nearly 15 years ago. Somewhat by chance, they eventually found themselves running a rehabilitation center for animals that have been rescued from captivity. They receive mostly birds, plus the occasional monkey or dog, from all over the country. These animals are often confiscated by Belize's Forest Department, handed over to BBR, and they must determine whether or not the animal can be rehabilitated and released back into the wild.
Since some unexpected circumstances have allowed me to stay for almost a week, my knowledge of birds has grown immensely as has my respect for the work that Nikki and Jerry are able to do here at BBR. They've rescued and released close to 1000 birds in the last 13 years. Considering the fact that the rehabilitation process takes two years on average, that number is quite impressive. At the same time, they're working hard to educate the community on the dangers of domesticating wild animals, and they encourage local schools to take part in conservation efforts.
From the colorful keel-billed toucan (the national bird of Belize) to the endangered yellow-headed parrots, BBR has become a leader in protecting the indigenous species of Central America. Of course not all of their animals become success stories which I found out first-hand when we received a sick barn owl who had been pulled out of a trash-filled canal in Belize City. Having suffered a bad fall and ingested polluted water, the owl had severe internal injuries and was infected with a nasty parasite. Nikki administered several doses of anibiotics and an antiparasitic, but he didn't make it through the night.
Despite this loss, BBR's program has a great success rate. Often times, parrots arrive malnourished, agitated, aggressive, and unable to socialize with other birds. By the time they're ready to be released they are no longer accustomed to humans, they can feed themselves, and they're able to mate and reproduce in the wild. Because of organizations like BBR, these endangered birds have a chance at survival and the biodiversity of the Belizean rainforest can be preserved for generations to come.
I want to thank you all again for taking an interest in my trip and helping out if you can. My fundraiser page will be active for the duration of my trip, and I am beyond grateful for any support you can offer—even if that means just signing up to receive these emails! I'll be sending out reports every 2–3 weeks, so stay tuned for mores stories from the road.
This week, I'll be hosting my first workshop and then heading out to the islands to visit several more of our partner organizations. I might have to check out some of the beaches on Caye Caulker while I'm at it...
Thanks again guys! Happy Monday, sending my best to you all!
P.S. Unfortunately, cameras are no longer allowed in the ATM Cave; apparently a tourist dropped their GoPro on top of one of the skeletons, seriously damaging the skull (ugh). Therefore the photo above is not my own. Link below.