From Inside Syria

A Report from Aleppo

The once-beautiful city of Aleppo has been host to some of the most violent clashes in Syria. Food and water are scarce. Missiles are falling on neighborhoods still full of families and children. And shelters are becoming oppressively crowded as more people are forced to move in search of safety.   

Our team is there with them. Through our network of partner organizations, we have hundreds of staff and volunteers in Aleppo.

They look after children with wounds, disabilities, and trauma. They keep track of youth unaccompanied by any close family member – those who are especially vulnerable to abuse and exploitation. Those who are trying to survive on their own in a war.

Our team repairs shelters, trucks in clean water, and distributes food.  We have partnerships with outside organizations that are able to provide large stores of food, but they have no capability to distribute it. Resources are so scarce and the chaos of war makes normal channels of distribution disintegrate. 

The strength of Questscope is held in the relationships our staff and volunteers have with each other and in the communities where we operate, which means that even when formal infrastructure crumbles – our networks remain strong. We are among the largest distributors of emergency food aid in Aleppo, bringing desperately needed supplies to children and families. 

The work being carried out in Aleppo is remarkable. But even more remarkable are the people behind the work. They are Syrians living through the same brutal war and have suffered unimaginable pain and loss, but they get up every day and choose hopeful action. 

They reach out to everyone – regardless of side – to provide life-saving physical assistance and spark a deeper inner healing that flows from relationship and acknowledgment of shared suffering. 

Roy Moussalli, the leader of our team inside Syria, was among the final nominees for The Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity. The Aurora Prize recognizes those who have had an exceptional impact on preserving human life. You can read his feature article here.

The Aqaba Project

Seeing the Invisible

Reem and her six sisters live in Aqaba, a port city in the south of Jordan.

They have been out of school for nearly four years, ever since they fled their home in Syria. They live in a neighborhood where no young girl should walk around in the streets, so they spend most of their time cooped up inside.

For a while Reem and her family were able to get by, but the little money they had ran out. You can feel the tight pressure in the room when her dad talks about his daughters.

“Girls are especially vulnerable in this world and we’re not really managing – we’re no longer able to meet their needs.”

Aqaba is host to a growing and desperate population of refugee families. There are no jobs, no resources, and no safety net. Their suffering is mostly unseen and only a few people even know they exist.

There are only hard choices left for refugee families in Aqaba. Reem’s only choice would have been early marriage so her other sisters could survive.

That changed last month. Because of your support and belief in our mission of putting the last, first we're launching a program to reach 150 of the most vulnerable families in Aqaba.

We’re providing integrated support for food, medicine, and education so families can take back control of their lives – and so parents don’t have to make choices that no parent should ever have to make.

You saw the invisible, listened to their stories, and are helping girls like Reem redefine their future. She and her sisters are now enrolled in our alternative education program. They have enough to eat. They have a chance to hope for a better future.

We are particularly grateful for a small group of very generous donors who put forth their trust and resources from the beginning as we built this program from the ground up.

A Major Milestone

Making Change in the Za'atari Refugee Camp

We just celebrated a major milestone at our Youth Center in the Za’atari Refugee Camp: the official opening of our new sports field. It’s a rare patch of green in an oppressively brown and dusty refugee camp. Hundreds of youth now have a safe place to play and run around with their friends. 

This achievement alone is a big reason for us to celebrate. But the completion of the sports field means something even more significant: the Youth Center is now fully operational. 

Two years ago we had an ambitious plan to build a center for youth in the middle of refugee camp where resources were already stretched precariously thin. We knew we were up against a potentially impossible challenge, but as the Syria Crisis worsened – our hope of meeting the need within every person for dignity and belonging only intensified. 

The Youth Center is a manifestation of this hope. The idea was to build a space for young people that would both rely on and build up their skills through activities and meaningful ways to contribute. It was largely brought to life by our refugee colleagues and youth who are living in the Za’atari Refugee Camp.

It is an open and easily accessible community space – for both youth and their parents. Programs are continually evolving as the needs and desires of the youth in Za’atari evolve. It has grown into a central hub for people to find a supportive community, learn new skills – and now gather for a game of soccer at the new sports field.

Refugee camps are usually thought of as places of despair and ruined dreams. While there is no shortage of pain in Za’atari, a group of young dreamers and entrepreneurs have created a thriving Youth Center in the most unlikely of places. It has grown beyond our wildest expectations, and we can’t wait to see what happens next. 

Summer Camp

Abdullah's Story

This teenage boy lives in the middle of a graveyard. Each morning, when Abdullah wipes the sleep from his eyes, he sees row upon row of gravestones and open graves. Crammed into a tiny, one-room house with eight members of his family, he is surrounded by death and decay.

Abdullah doesn’t have the luxury of thinking about the future, of making plans for his life. He’s simply trying to get through today. He hungers for acceptance, a sense of purpose, and above all, love. He needs a place in this world.

Recently, Abdullah attended the Questscope Weekend Summer Camp where he learned healthy ways to communicate and build relationships. He found total acceptance from his counselor and mentors and was challenged to grow in ways he never imagined possible.

“Yesterday was good, and today is good,” Abdullah said during the camp. “But tomorrow I’ll have to return to my normal life.”

What good can a weekend do in the life of a child who’s known little more than heartache and disappointment? What can threedays accomplish? They can accomplish miracles. For the youth who attend, it’s the beginning of a whole new life, a life filled not with heartbreak and rejection, but rather with dreams, hope, and possibility.

Abdullah left school years ago when life’s burdens became too heavy for him to carry. He cannot read or write, and when he first started with us, he didn’t see much point to education. These days, Abdullah attends Questscope’s alternative education centre near his home where his mentors have helped him realize that there is value in an education––there is a way out of his living nightmare.

Since he is unable to afford the transportation cost of getting to our education centre on his own, Questscope also provides a transportation scholarship for Abdullah and is helping him find a part-time job that will give him the opportunity to get an education while earning extra income for himself and his family.

Check out our blog for more stories from the field.