St. John’s Church, Beverly Farms, MA (2016). In partnership with NuDay Syria, for the benefit of residents in Camp Freedom and Camp Atmeh in Jissr-Shughour, Syria
“Our spirit strengthens in working together collaboratively.”
The Syrian people served by this project are internally displaced people who have taken refuge from many beseiged areas in Syria. According to NuDay Syria, there are over 35,000 people living in the camp in Jissr Shughur, and of that an estimated 20,000 school age children. Jissr Shughour is in the Northwest area of Syria where they are living in refugee-migrant camp in tents on the lower bank of the Orontes River. These internally displaced women and children lack the basic living needs of food, shelter, medical care, and education.
When the Outreach Committee of St. John’s in Beverly Farms learned of the refugee situation in Syria, their hearts were opened. Upon learning about the camp in Jissr Shughour from NuDay Syria, an NGO working on the ground with Syrian women and children, they knew they were called to respond to this desperate situation.
What started out as a collection drive of emergency items for residents of the camp, took on a life of its own, impacting both the residents of the camp, and many in our own diocese.
In retrospect, we see our relationship in Syria in terms of phases, as the completion of one goal created an opportunity for the next. We started this effort in early 2016:
Phase One of our mission provided donations of women’s and children’s coats and clothing, blankets, linens, food, toys, diapers, and medical supplies which were collected and safely shipped to Syria by NuDay Syria. We reached out and received what turned out to be a shipping container full of donations from the eight churches in the North Shore Deanery, and four North Shore public and private schools.
Meeting emergency needs, and thinking about the future of a country with so many uneducated children led us to ask, how can we help these children get an education?
Phase Two of this global mission collected donations of 300 bookbags and school supplies for Syrian Refugee children. Such educational supplies are not available in Syria at this time. This Book bag ministry provided materials for learning even if they are not fortunate enough to have a school to attend. Opportunities were created for women in the camp to teach them language, writing, math, and arts. We went back to our local partners, and received overwhelming support. Future plans are to continue to support the needs of the camp, as assed and prioritized by NuDay Syria, members of the camp, and Wael Ibrahim (local counsel in Idlib).
Providing the supplies to support learning by the children in the camp got us wondering, is there not a way that these children could attend an actual school?
Phase Three helped build a school in Hammam Sheikh Issr, Jissr Shughour, Syria. The school was constructed by NuDay Syria’s partners in this area, who are local humanitarian aid activists and reputable leaders. Materials for the school were transported from Turkey. At this time we contacted and received support from the Episcopal Diocese of MA Office of Global Mission in the form of a Mission Tithe Matching Grant. The school opened in September of 2016 with 400 children enrolled, 200 girls attend each morning, and 200 boys in the afternoon.
We are working with NuDay Syria to bring relief and self-sustainability to the internally displaced Syrian women and children living in the JissrShughour camp. NuDay Syria’s focus is to hire women who live in the area to teach at the school. The new school has been constructed by displaced women and men who live in the refugee camp.
Reflection on the question “Win what ways in which this mission relationship benefits both St. John’s and the camp residents in Syria?”
“The mission relationship benefits St. John’s-Beverly Farms bringing our church together in the spirit of giving and service to those in need. It futher provides a mission for collaboration with other churches and public & private schools in the Northeast area of Boston. For Syria, this mission project benefits internally displaced women and children in Jissr Shughur with basic needs (food, blankets, clothing) and supplies for children’s education. Education provides an opportunity for each child to learn to read, write and acquire the basic skills needed to be successful as well as employ displaced Syrian women as teachers. Adds Nadia Alawa from NuDay Syria “I feel love and you are helping us achieve success in Syria working with you.”