Mary’s Meals continues to support the children of Syria traumatised by ‘a night they will never forget’ and years of civil war
On 6 February 2023, two earthquakes – registering 7.8 and 7.5 magnitude – hit Syria and Turkey, killing many thousands of people and displacing thousands more.
After over a decade of civil war, the people of Syria had to fight again for their survival.
Communities, many of them made up of people already displaced by conflict, had very little access to food and shelter.
Within hours of the earthquakes, Mary’s Meals launched an emergency appeal, and thanks to donations from all over the world, the charity’s local partner Dorcas delivered life-saving food aid to 7,000 people every day in Aleppo.
Support was also later extended to provide hygiene packs, blankets and counselling services to those affected by the tragedy.
One year on, Syria’s children continue to feel the life-changing impact of the earthquakes.
Kevork is 10 years old, studies in the fifth grade and loves to play basketball with his friends.
“When the earthquake happened, I was sleeping and woke up to the voices of my family and brothers.
“At first, I did not understand anything.
“Everything was moving.
“When it stopped, I felt very afraid.
“I started crying and I ran to my family.
“When I was on my way to them, the earthquake came again, and I started screaming.
“Then, my family and I left the house.
“It was 4:30 in the morning, and it was pitch dark, cold and rainy.
“I will never forget this night.”
Hamza is nine years old and studies in the fourth grade.
He is passionate about life, loves learning and loves helping others.
“My five brothers and I felt very afraid.
“We moved to the park when the earthquake happened.
“It was pitch black, there was no electricity, and it was raining … everyone was afraid.
“We returned home two hours later and I slept, but at one o’clock in the afternoon, the earthquake repeated, and here it became much worse.
“I did not want to return to the house for fear of its destruction.
“My school was closed.
“I missed my friends and playing with them, and I missed my lessons.
“My life has changed a lot since the earthquake.”
Mary’s Meals has been working in Aleppo since 2017, feeding more than 4,000 children every school day.
Working with Dorcas, the charity serves nutritious meals at school, attracting children to the classroom, many of whom are still experiencing the symptoms of trauma caused by almost 13 years of civil war.
Jessi, 26, has been part of the Dorcas team since 2019.
After the earthquake struck at 4.20am, Jessi and her colleagues responded immediately, providing food, drink and shelter for desperate families.
Fuelled by the support of the emergency appeal, Mary’s Meals and Dorcas were able to shine a light in the darkness for those enduring immense suffering in Syria.
“After overcoming the immediate shock, the most important thing for us was providing food and drink for families, and then to try to restore their homes or search for other places to be homed.
“A large number of individuals were affected and no-one had any food, so it made a big difference in meeting the needs during the crisis.
“Children ran to our doors to receive food.
“There were elderly people who thanked us, especially those who had a disability and were unable to move and meet their own needs.
“I cannot describe my feeling of joy when we were sitting in a circle with the children and sandwiches were being distributed to them and they were eating them with enjoyment, joy, and laughter.
“We cannot forget the psychological factor that all children, men and women experienced, and the elderly.
“Even now, the psychological effects are clear to everyone.”
“The school was closed after the earthquake for about two months.
“I missed school, especially my friends and seeing them.
“I prayed every day for this to end.
“I love math and playing with my friends.”
The economic situation the residents of Aleppo are experiencing remains very difficult.
Many families only have bread because they live on aid only and there is no income sufficient to meet their needs for food.
So, all the children wait for food from Mary’s Meals.
Sometimes the children are asked why they didn’t eat their sandwich, and the answer is that they will share it with their siblings at home because they don’t have food.
Although many families still rely on support to help meet their basic needs, Mary’s Meals is helping to restore stability and giving children in Syria hope and the chance to dream of a brighter future.
“Most children cannot bring food with them to school.
“When I get a sandwich at school, I feel happy and full, which helps me focus more, and I’m happy to share food with my friends.
“In future, I would like to become a pilot because I love flying so much.
“I would like to one day fly and visit Turkey.”
In a country where more than 2 million children remain out of school and more than a quarter of children under five years old suffer chronic malnutrition, Mary’s Meals’ school feeding programme is more important than ever. Help feed more children like Kevork and Hamza around the world by donating today: www.marysmeals.org.uk/