The Syrian city of Aleppo has dominated international headlines for the last few months, with extreme violence against civilians and combatants alike. Now, with a delicate ceasefire between the Assad government and armed rebel forces. The city has been mostly evacuated, but the hard work isn’t over.
Rick Cober Bauman, executive director of Mennonite Central Committee Ontario, says there is still plenty that needs to be done in the war-torn country.
Currently, MCC has a small group, based in Beirut, Lebanon, that is coordinating with on-the-ground organizations to make it easier for families living in Syria to stay where they are until the violence ends. For MCC, this means a multi-pronged approach.
“Small cash payments can help people pay for shelter, and some monthly food shipments that are materially very important to allow people to seriously consider staying and waiting out the violence. They are also very symbolically important, giving the sense of not being abandoned by their western neighbours in Canada and the U.S. That is a really important purpose behind the humanitarian aid that we provide,” he said, mentioning that MCC isn’t just about providing for families escaping the violence by coming to North America.
Through the partnerships with organizations like the Middle East Council of Churches, and the Syrian Orthodox Church and the Fellowship of Middle East Evangelical Churches, MCC is also working to provide emotional support to Syrians affected by the violence, breaking a cycle of fighting.
“Over the last five or six years, we have put a lot of effort into trauma healing. Most of those people have been highly traumatized, so a lot of our work has been training trauma healing trainers, if that makes sense, again to amplify our efforts,” he said. “You want people to be able to recover from this and restart their lives, wherever that happens. You also want to not see people harmed by violence become further perpetrators of violence. One of the reasons for effective trauma healing is to help people move beyond the reaction that violence is the only response. Otherwise, you will see this continue for another generation.”
MCC Ontario is always looking for more donations to help them in their work, both here in Canada and overseas in war-ravaged regions like Aleppo in Syria.
“We continue to welcome donations so that we can do an effective job of being a coordinator. There are still families here that are arriving, and we need to play that role. We also always accept donations for our continued work in Syria. From humanitarian work, peace building work and more. We welcome that,” he said, adding that sometimes it is about donating a kit to make everyday life easier on those living in exceptional circumstances. “We are always looking for the material resources as well – things like hygiene kits. If people want to go online to our website, the lists for all of our kits are there and we continue to welcome them. The kit that you provide might not go directly to Syria, but now it is there in inventory for when we need to make another shipment either there or somewhere else in the world that is in need.”
Visit www.mcccanada.ca to find out how to help.