Working entirely with Syrians, the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) relies on local networks of volunteers who give much of their time, energy and skills to assisting with our efforts in Syria.
Hailing from all walks of life, of diverse ethnic, religious and socio-economic backgrounds, JRS volunteers are focused on the goal of assisting and serving people severely affected by the conflict.
"If you could understand my family life and see how I was raised – what I'm doing now, all these different people I work with – it was unimaginable. Yet we all work together without any problems", says Loujain* a volunteer.
Moreover, none of the volunteers have been immune to the conflict. Many are displaced themselves, or have lost family members in one way or another – either through violence or because they have moved away. Some volunteers risk their lives daily to come to-and-from JRS centres or to ensure that children are safely escorted home.
"Every day I hear stories from our teams inside Syria that amaze me. The work they're doing is extraordinary, they're dedicating themselves to those in need, putting others first," says Frederica, a staff member of the international JRS Rapid Response Team.
Humans first. Emphasising this aspect of their work, a JRS Project Director in Damascus, Fouad Nakhla SJ, says the focus of volunteers on people as complete human beings, rather than someone who only needs a food basket or blanket.
"We treat people as individuals, and they appreciate it. We have to preserve people's dignity", said Fr Nakhla.
Providing emergency food, shelter and winter clothing is crucial, but at the same time JRS accompanies people who have lost everything and experienced great trauma.
"It's important to listen when nobody else wants to listen to them, Syrians caught up in the conflict feel abandoned by everyone," said Miriam, JRS Middle East and North Africa Assistant Director based in Damascus.
JRS teams work in Damascus, Aleppo and Homs, providing emergency relief and educational and psychosocial services to internally displaced persons, as well as refugees from Iraq living in Syria.