Syria: Blue Marists maintain basic services
In Aleppo, the Blue Marists, a group of three brothers and about 50 lay people, maintain several educational institutions and provide basic supplies of food, water and electricity every day at great risk – a basic human right. How they manage this at all borders on heroism.
We hope for your support for these helpers of the needy!
In December 2021, our team donated € 5,000 to the Blue Marists.
This amount was used to buy trousers, jumpers, underwear and shoes for the children of the two educational projects.
The project “I learn to grow” takes care of 80 children aged 3 to 6 who come from very poor backgrounds. The project “I want to learn” cares for 120 children from displaced families.
Two pairs of trousers, a jumper, socks and underwear as well as shoes could be distributed to each of these children.
Dr Nabil Antaki of the Blue Marists expresses his gratitude for this support with a heartfelt “Vergelt’s Gott”.
Letter from Aleppo No. 42 – Sad faces
Source: marist news 703, 18 November 2021, SYRIA
The people of Aleppo will never forget the years 2012 to 2016, 2016, when war was raging in Aleppo. They remember very well the bombs and gas cylinders filled with explosives and nails dropped by the armed rebel groups in East Aleppo in their neighbourhoods, causing numerous civilian casualties every day.
They remember the hours spent in fear waiting for their loved ones to return home. They remember the suffering they endured, the cold in winter because there was no diesel for heating and the nights they spent in the dark for years because there was no electricity (the power stations were in the hands of terrorists).
They cannot forget the years they did not have running water (terrorists had cut off the water supply to an entire city) and the hours they spent waiting at hastily dug wells all over the city somewhere to fill their water canisters. They will always remember the repeated blockades of the city, with no one able to enter or leave, isolating Aleppo and its residents and a shortage of all essentials.
On 2 November, they went to the cemeteries to pray at the graves of their parents, relatives and friends who were killed during the war years. They still think with longing of the happy days when all family members lived in Aleppo before they were scattered all over the world. Despite all the suffering in recent years, Aleppians remember “We lived better in the war years than we do now”, they emphasise in chorus, “We miss the time that was more bearable than the poverty we suffer now”. In reality, it is the poverty bomb that has now exploded in Syria.
80% of the population lives below the poverty line and 60% of the population is food insecure.
Now that the fighting has almost stopped for two years and the military situation is frozen, the economic situation is catastrophic. The prices of basic necessities have risen dramatically, leading to an increase in rent and cost of living. Shortages have become permanent, with rationing of petrol, bread, sugar, rice, etc. On the other hand, wages have not been adjusted proportionately, leading to an increase in poverty. Most families can no longer make ends meet and depend on food, medical and financial assistance from NGOs (non-governmental organisations) to survive.
This situation is due to various causes, such as the destruction of the country’s infrastructure and the devastation of the war, the financial crisis in Lebanon, which has caused many Syrians to lose their capital for investment and their savings for retirement. But also the sanctions from the European countries and the United States that block financial transactions and prevent imports and prohibit investments in Syria. In addition, the Covid19 pandemic has exacerbated the situation through the deaths and preventive measures it has caused and has slowed down economic activity.
Many of our compatriots tell us that they regret their decision to stay in the country when emigration was easy and many dream of settling elsewhere. In August this year alone, seventeen thousand young people from Aleppo left the country to settle and work elsewhere, especially in Egypt. We are suffering a lot from the exodus and what is left of the skilled labour and craftsmen. Small businesses that want to open can no longer find skilled workers.
And it is other countries that benefit from our doctors, engineers, craftsmen, workers and other professionals. Skilled workers who were trained here in Syria and who would contribute to economic growth and are now filling the gap of certain professions in other countries. This summer, many people arrived in Aleppo who had fled the war and migrated to other places. They returned to visit their relatives, clean up their houses that they had left in a hurry and renew their passports and complete the administrative procedures that had been pending since they left.
When asked how they returned to Aleppo, many of these people answered the same formula: “We found SAD FACES.” These people from Aleppo who have returned after several years have spoken out loud what we have felt for a long time. The people are sad, their faces are sad, their thoughts are sad, and their hearts are even sadder. How can you expect things to be different when you have been living between military bombs and the poverty bomb for 10 years?
The projects of the Blue Marists
In this context, the Blue Marists continue to work to sow a little joy in the hearts of children and a little hope in the minds of adults, to help people find work to teach children and also adults.
Our project “Colibri”, which takes care of displaced families in Shahba camp, continues its educational and medical activities and offers material support to families in hygiene issues. However, this project is under threat; the Turkish army, which occupies the Syrian region of Afrin, is shelling the area around the camp and has sent out leaflets to the people of the region warning them of an upcoming large-scale military operation “to liberate the region from terrorists”.
The “Shared Bread” project has been very well received by the people of Aleppo. Twelve women cook every day in our premises to provide a daily hot meal (with fruit and bread) that our 25 volunteers (with a smile and an attentive ear) distribute at lunchtime to more than 200 elderly people who are alone, without family and without means.
We have started a second phase of our “Vocational Training” programme with 20 young adults whom we are enabling to learn a trade and become plumbers, carpenters, electricians, mechanics, painters, tailors, etc. The “micro-projects” programme is carried out with the training of adults to manage projects and to carry out the financing of projects that promise success. Unfortunately, the economic crisis does not make the chances of success any easier.
Our two educational projects for children aged 3 to 6 from poor and displaced families, “Learning to grow” and “I want to learn”, could not accept all requests and unfortunately had to turn away children who needed our help. Our facilities are stretched to the limit of their capacity and cannot accommodate more than 210 children and the 31 educators who accompany them.
“Semillas”, the psychological support project, is growing enormously. Thirty volunteers take care of 450 children aged 3 to 16 under the guidance of our head psychologist. Under the “Lotus” programme for the youngest and “Bambu” for the older ones, not forgetting the support for adults.
The “Handmade” programme continues to employ 13 women who recycle fabric scraps into unique garments for women. Combating waste, protecting the environment and employing women are the principles of the project. Candidates are pushing to enrol in the Women’s Develop project. Two groups of 20 women are organised for a period of three months. General cultural workshops, health referrals, personal training and an archaeological visit enrich the project, which also provides a space for coexistence and freedom for the participants.
Our adult education centre, our “MIT”, organises workshops of 12, 20 and 56 hours of training on various useful topics. We can only accommodate 20 participants per workshop, led by the best of the experts in Aleppo. The “Hope” project, “Esperanza”, consists of English classes for mothers.
We continue to distribute milk to children under 11 “Gota de leche” and contribute to the cost of medical care for the needy (more than 150 medical procedures per month), covering the cost of rent for 200 displaced families. 450 families who cannot afford anything receive cash deliveries every month from Polish families as part of a project run by a Polish NGO.
The Blue Marists
The number of Blue Marists is growing; now we are 170 voluntary members and paid staff. New members must be a human fit and attend Marist training before they are finally accepted. A regular training programme is also compulsory for all members. We are convinced that the situation will not improve until the sanctions are lifted.
We are aware that everything we do is just a drop in the ocean. Ocean of Needs, however, is that drop for the wellbeing of thousands of families.
We are trying to make the faces of our compatriots a little less sad, and that is not easy. We count on your solidarity and prayers.
Dr. Nabil Antaki
For the Blue Marists of Aleppo
02 November 2021
Project report microprojects:
In 2018, the following project of the Blue Marists was funded with € 25,000 through the support of our association in close cooperation with the International Missionary Society in Rome (FMSI). The project objective was to focus on the expansion of the infrastructure and the creation of jobs. The following article describes the project and is an excerpt from the project report of the FMSI.
The Blue Marists of Aleppo (Syria) strongly believe that human development contributes to the realisation of peace. The priority after so many years of war is to help people start their own businesses to be financially independent from humanitarian aid and live in dignity. In addition, we believe that creating jobs will help keep Christian families in Aleppo instead of migrating abroad. From this belief, a partnership proposal was submitted to FMSI in 2018 and a micro-project programme was launched to motivate and empower people to start new businesses and finance them in terms of feasibility, profitability, sustainability and job creation.
Candidates underwent training to assess whether they were serious, willing to learn and able to implement a project. Those selected then attended a workshop on how to start their own business. The workshops were led by Aleppo’s best trainers. At the end of the workshop, the budding entrepreneurs presented their projects to a jury composed of trainers and members of the Marist Institute for Training (MIT). The projects were corrected, advised, selected and fully funded. The projects carried out will continue to be monitored by mentors to ensure that the project objectives are achieved in the long term.
The following projects were selected and funded in collaboration with FMSI:
– Making and selling clothes and jeans
– Setting up a supermarket
– Production and sale of food and drinks
– Electrical installation and maintenance
– Sale of car accessories
On behalf of the Blue Marists and the beneficiaries of the grant, I would like to thank the FMSI and Maristen Solidarität International in Germany for their generous support. The micro-projects programme is still ongoing because we firmly believe that among the 14 Blue Marist projects, it is the most important for the future of the people and Christian families in Aleppo and Syria. And we still urgently need funds and support. To all donors and supporters, our sincere thanks!
Dr Nabil Antaki, on behalf of the Blue Marists.
(Aleppo, December 2018).
- Project progress
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(from left) Josef Schmid, Peter Dierl, Anja Spies, Brother Andreas KruppThe association Maristen Solidarität International (MSI) was pleased to receive a generous donation from the Association of Self-Employed Bavarians, Furth chapter. The chairman of the Furth...