Her baby strapped to her back, she hoisted her 2-year-old and her 4-year-old under each of her arms. A kind stranger carried her oldest child, a disabled boy who is blind.
With a final glance back, she left her modest home and everything she owned. Then she and a small group walked across a snowy mountain pass from Syria to Lebanon. She didn’t want to leave, but she couldn’t risk ending up like the shopkeeper in her town. ISIS cut off his head and hung it on a pike outside his store. He had spoken out against the brutal invaders.
On the trip across the mountain, she tried to use her body to shield her children from the snow that pelted her face. There were no extra clothes with which to cover her children. The only things they had left were their lives and what they wore as they ran away.
At last, she made it across the mountain and joined her husband. He had crossed a month earlier to try to find work and a home for his family.
He still hasn’t found work.
I spoke with the family inside their tent with a concrete floor on what used to be a chicken farm. Shock waves rolled through me when Haya simply said, “I wish it had happened to you.”
Haya, her husband Sayid and their four children
Through a translator who assured me that Haya meant me no harm, she drove home an important truth that day.
Thanks to Haya’s simple statement, I will never forget that you can’t understand something so horrific until you experience it, as she did.
I imagined myself, with my wife and three kids, forced from our Phoenix home. Would we make it to Mexico? Would Mexico let us in? How would we find food, water, shelter, and a way to make a living?
Would our children survive the trip? What kind of a future would they have if they couldn’t go to school?
This is the reality for people like Haya, her family, and the millions of Syrian refugees whose only choice was to flee or die. In Lebanon alone, the population has swelled from 4.5 million to 6 million because of ISIS brutality in Syria.
Food for the Hungry partners with the Lebanese Society for Educational and Social Development (LSESD) to provide help and hope to people like Haya and her family. Through LSESD, Food for the Hungry donors help Syrian refugees stay as close to their homes as possible. They want to return someday.
LSESD works through churches to provide food vouchers and to help educate the children.
Haya’s family were some of the lucky ones. They made it out.
Did you know that the world is experiencing the worst humanitarian crisis since WWII right now?
The UN Refugee Agency estimates that there are 65.3 million refugees huddled together in desperate situations like Haya’s. In a recent report, the agency reported that “measured against the world’s population of 7.4 billion people, one in every 113 people globally is now either an asylum-seeker, internally displaced or a refugee – putting them at a level of the world has never seen.” The number of refugees is larger than the populations of Canada, Australia and New Zealand combined. More than half are children.
South Sudanese refugees flood into Uganda, where they receive emergency help, along with farming tools
“The willingness of nations to work together not just for refugees but for the collective human interest is what’s being tested today, and it’s this spirit of unity that badly needs to prevail,” said UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi.
After speaking with family after family, not just from Syria, but also South Sudanese people in Uganda, I know that Jesus would cry out for us to help in any way we can.
There are several things you could do.
Pray. Most of the world’s refugees fled war, particularly in Syria, Somalia, South Sudan, Yemen, Burundi, Ukraine and Central African Republic. Thousands of others have fled gang violence and other conflicts in Central America.
Donate. The needs are huge. It is going to take a coordinated effort between humanitarian organizations like Food for the Hungry, along with businesses and governments the world over. You can help Food for the Hungry work with Syrian refugees in Lebanon and South Sudan refugees in Uganda by donating here.
Advocate. Most of the 63.5 million refugees are innocent people like you and me, just wanting to live a happy life and provide for their families. Like Haya, they don’t want to leave their countries but must. They’d like to stay close to home, but sometimes conflict forces them out.
You can help Food for the Hungry help refugees here.