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"Damascene Jasmine" activity concluded

A group of youths launched an activity called "Damascene Jasmine" to brief society about activities and initiatives being carried out within shelters (in which displaced families are temporary living) and outside them.

The three-day activity, organized by the Syria Trust for Development in cooperation with Charity Commission for Relief the Palestinian People, is to be kicked off on Saturday morning (on April 13 ) at the Art House Hotel in Mezzeh area in Damascus.

According to a copy of press release sent to the Syria Times, the activity contains exhibition for collection of paintings, bazar, auction, music playing, and a film.

The activity in which children living in shelters and those living in hosting societies are working together mainly aims to achieve integration between them according to the goal of an initiative called 'integration through art works'.

Here, we can mention that the Trust has recently launched three initiatives for educating affected children in Damascus, and this activity reflects successful outcome of these ongoing initiatives.

Revenues are to go towards support other aid and development initiatives.

In fact, such initiatives prove Syrian people' determination to continue education despite current crisis the country is going through.

The Trust is supervising 22 shelters in Damascus and has launched several aid and development initiatives to alleviate suffering of citizens affected by the two-year old crisis.  

Basma Qaddour     


Strength through adversity - Daily life in Gaza

Every morning at four o'clock, I get up from bed, before starting university, to fulfill, with as much patience and perseverance as I can bring to life, the task I have assigned myself. I feel obligated to let the world know about the suffering of ordinary people where I live, here in Gaza. Recently, on a beautiful day, I was given the opportunity to meet the wife and children of one of Gaza's martyrs.

I phoned her beforehand to get her permission. I was concerned she might not want to see anybody, but it turned out to be quite the opposite. With a friendly smile, she welcomed me to her humble home. As I sat down beside her, I said: "I am Rana, and I am here to tell the world your story and to describe how you live after the ugly crime you witnessed. I will also do what I can to share your message."

At that moment, her little son, crawling on his belly, came towards me. I hugged him and kissed his head. For a moment, I forgot everything and played with the child, his mother joking with me, saying "you can take him with you." The little boy's name is Ghaith and he is nine months old. This sweet little child will never share his childhood with his father. He will never bask in his father's love and affection. All of this was stolen from him.

After I had been playing with the child for a few minutes, the mother, twenty-seven years old, began to tell her story. I just listened, letting her words flow.

Her husband was on vacation from work. Each morning during this time he would visit his mother. On one of these days, back home after seeing his mother, he stood outside picking tangerines for his older son Anas, who was barely three years of age. "Drones were everywhere," said the woman. Her husband phoned a friend, telling him to come over and collect some money that he was owed. The friend stopped by. As he was leaving, the drones spewed their deadly fire.

The woman fell silent for a few seconds, then added: "I heard the missile, but I didn't think it had such a strong impact." But when she went out to see where the rocket had struck she was horrified to see her husband laying on the ground, their son in his lap. Frantically, she started calling her husband's name: "Mahmoud! Mahmoud! Mahmoud!"

There was no reply. Mahmoud was no longer alive and Anas was crying out in pain. "I held him and screamed for someone to help me." Some men rushed to the scene and took the boy and his mother to the hospital. Mahmoud's friend was also killed in the attack.

While we were talking, her third son, Moa'ath, returning from Kindergarten, ran toward his mother to tell her what happened at school that day. At five years old, he is the eldest child.

"Because of what he witnessed, he suffers from trauma and distress. He shouts day and night," the mother said.


As she was grieving over her child's pain, she collapsed into a burst of tears, unable to control herself any longer. I tried to comfort her, but it felt like an almost impossible task. Still hoping to calm mother and son, I asked Moa'ath what his dreams are for the future. "I want to be in the military", he said. "I want to avenge my father and my brother." With childish innocence, he added: "Before, Israel was good, but now they're not anymore. They are criminals and I don't love them."

In my previous article, "Child Victims of Israeli Violence," I mentioned Anas's injuries as among the most serious of Israel's gruesome attack on Gaza. The child, who is still in Intensive Care, had an operation to repair twenty-five perforations in his intestines. Ten days later, he was transferred to a hospital abroad, where he underwent a six hour operation to remove any remaining shrapnel fragments. Anas has one more operation ahead of him. Though his condition is still serious, it is stable.

As I wrapped up my interview, the mother expressed her gratitude to God. She called upon God to help her to raise her three children, Moa'ath, Anas, and Ghaith. I asked her one final question: "If you could send one message to the world, what would it be?" With a strong voice, she replied: "I only wish that Israel gets duly punished for all these cruel crimes."

The woman's story is but one among many that illustrates the consequences of Israel's violent behavior and human rights violations toward the people of Gaza.

Nevertheless, in Gaza, the human spirit desperately grabs hold of determination and self-sacrifice, attempting to deal with the challenge of waiting for sunrise through all the terror-filled hours of darkness. Together, we stand in the river of hope, transformed and transforming, laughing, crying, yet grounded and buoyed by courage and an unfathomable and amazing grace.

As we experience the incomprehensibility of Israeli aggression, we never forget that as our struggle aims to resist and to break the power of Zionist hegemony, our efforts are really about regaining our rights and, ultimately, about obtaining peace.


Pinned by:Rana Alshami



Plan to Build New Housing Units for Displaced Families

Providing shelters for the displaced families staying in refugee camps outsideSyria has become an urgent need and a top priority to the government which adopted several procedures tohelp these families return to their homeland. 

Within this framework, the Local Administration Ministry's Reconstruction Committee has recently decided to establish 10 housing units, with a capacity of 10 thousand peopleas temporary shelters to welcome the Syrian families who were forcibly displaced by armed terrorist groups.

According to Director of Ministry’s International Cooperation Department, Eng. Rafah al-Baridi,the project will hopefully  be ready in months. Each unit is due to include an education center, clinic and all equipments needed to ensure good live to the displaced.

 Some 800 million SYP is earmarked to implement the project, said al-Baridi.

The Ministry has also spared no effort to provide basic needs to terrorism affected families living in temporary sheltersin different Syrian cities until they are able to return to their original places.

Al- Baridi said in a recent statement that the ministry in cooperation with the Higher Commission for Refugees is also working to rehabilitate and equip more than 200 temporary shelters for families displaced abroad in different governorates at an estimated cost of 240 million SYP.

 They are scheduled to be ready in June, she added, pointing out that this will be done in cooperation with  a number of international and local organizations like the Syrian Trust for development andthe Syria Society for Social Development. In addition, she said, the plan includes providing financial assistance to most needed displaced families, noting that forty thousand families are targeted in this plan.

Concerning cooperation between the ministry and the UNICEF, al-Baridi said the organization will be keen to provide necessary support to rehabilitate and maintain the sewage network  in temporary shelters so as to meet the requirements of citizens in all governorates.

On the work mechanism, al-Baridi said that the ministry tries to getan assessment for the number of displaced families and ensure necessary resources in order to meet the needs of the displaced Syrian citizens by coordinatingefforts with its partners in relief work at the Higher Relief Committee together with some international humanitarian organizations acting in Syria within theframework of the humanitarian response plansigned between the Foreign and Expatriates Ministry and international organizations including the UN Higher Commission for Refugees, The UN Food Program, the UNICEF, the UN Development Bank and concerned UN bodies.

H. Mustafa

A thief among us

About three years ago I was writing in Tishreen newspaper about proceedings happening in Syria, one day I wrote about a thief who stole from sheepfold some cattle, but the police caught him, that day I've mentioned the name of the village, you know what happened? a person from that village contact me by telephone and said: I am the mayor of the village you spoke about, we are very honest people, there is no thief among us, you are wrong, the thief came from outside the village, I want you to write in the same newspaper an apology to our village, or all the people in the village will come to your editor-in-chief, to complain about you, we are very good people you want to slander our reputation, I apologized and did what they asked me to do.

 I am mentioning that story, just to say that Syrian people do not accept a thief among them, so how can they accept terrorists among them? No they don't, we see now in Syria just foreigners, who mislead some Syrians to be terrorists, these days we see inhuman brutal strangers in Syria, did you hear what happened yesterday???, Terrorists exploded a booby-trapped car in al-Sabee Bahrat area in the capital, with reports of many casualties. Yes many casualties, and deaths, I saw them, they were all civilians, among them many children, oh my God I can't express my feeling, it was awful, my God help me, my God help those who lost the lives of their beloved.

 We also can't forget when they killed the head of the Islamic scholars in the Levant, Mohamed Said Ramadan al- Bouti , by a suicide bomber inside al-Iman Mosque, and fifty of his students, no one can believe that, this savagery is happening in Syria, strange, don't you think so?. it was a shock to all Syrians, they killed them inside the mosque, strange, don't you think so?.Also they killed students inside the university….they killed and killed and still killing, but why?

A thief among us was very strange, but now what???  terrorists killing children women, civilians, in schools, hospitals, universities, mosques, I am wondering how can we accept that? Terrorism is strange to the Syrian ears? We have no extremists, those who kill are from outside, Israel is training them to come to Syria, when we defend those militants, we are defending terrorists against a legitimate and progressive power, We all know that the goal is  to install chaos in the region, a chaos that the west wants to use, just for the benefit of Israel.

US, Israel, west and puppets-backed terrorists in Syria have no immorality limit, but we Syrians have, and will have forever, we have hope, we have love ,and belief in God, tomorrow will be better, God will save us, say Amen.

Butheina Alnounou

Three initiatives for Educating affected children in Damascus

Since  rebuilding individual is essential, as many as 22 shelters in Damascus province see three new initiatives concentrate on educating affected children, who are temporary living with their families in the shelters.

The goals and mechanism of implementing each initiative were elaborated in a symposium held on April,2nd , 2013 in IT plaza center in the capital.

The Syria Trust for Development in cooperation with the Aga Khan Trust for Culture organized the symposium which mainly aimed to look for new partners. 

"Such initiatives are very important in the current circumstance Syria is going through and the door is open to all those who determine to offer financial, logistic and humanitarian aid to affected children", the press release read.

Volunteers from the Trust, which supervises the 22 shelters, gave detailed information about steps of implementing each initiative.

"Return to school"

Julian Haddad, a volunteer, said: "the first initiative entitled 'return to school' seeks to remove obstacles that prevent children from going to school and give private lessons to them to continue their study."

He noted that a recent survey on dropout rate in shelters has revealed that there are 665 school dropouts. "We are working to return them to school as soon as possible," Haddad added.

"Reading books"

Another volunteer, Roba Saboneh, talked about the second initiative called "Hekayati M'khabbyeh" [slang means 'my story is hidden'], which focuses on reading stories in an interactive method and establishing a library.

"Integration through art works"

However, the third initiative entitled "integration between children living in shelters and those living in hosting societies" includes several activities such as music, drawing and sculpture.

Shadi Sarweh, who is specialized in jam-session, is working in the third initiative and preparing for a concert to be performed by children from both shelters and hosting societies.

He trains dozens of children to have a choir team.

As for drawing and sculpture activities, Masa al-Mosseli said that at least 75 children are being trained to hold an exhibition for their works.

Revenues of the concert and exhibition will go towards supporting affected families.

"Continuity of initiatives"

Coordinator of the South Region in the Trust, Rana Mas'oud, told the Syria Times, that the three initiatives launched in mid-February in cooperation with Education Ministry and Damascus governorate.

"Since the opening of shelters, the Trust has launched other development and aid initiatives in cooperation with several local organizations," Mas'oud said.

She clarified that the UN High Commissioner for Refugees funded the initiatives in the first stage. "But we want to guarantee the continuity of the initiatives after the UNHCR stops its fund… Other partners are communicating with us to fund ongoing initiatives."

"Yes, you can help"

For his part, the AKDN Communication Assistant, Hasan Saifo, said in a speech that everyone is able to take part in helping affected people in Syria.  

"The initiatives are not magic solutions to all problems. They are just first steps to go forward," Saifo added. 

The Syria Times interviewed two attendees to know their opinion about the initiatives.

"Friendly touch"

Reem Asaad, from 'Lamsat Dafa' initiative [slang means : warm touch], underscored importance of development initiatives in the current situation, noting that "Lamsat Dafa" took part in distributing bags and stationery in several shelters in cooperation with the Trust.

The "Lamsat Dafa" initiative, which was found in December 2011, includes 23 Syrian women and has several aid and development activities.

Nowadays, the " Lamsat Dafa" initiative , the Trust and Education Ministry are working in a project called "Madrasti Ahla" [ a slang mean 'my school is more beautiful'] in 6 schools in Mhajreen area in Damascus.

Wafaa Aqel from" Lamsat Dafa" initiative told us: "We have amazed by the students' creative ideas to make schools more beautiful."

All projects are being defined according to field visits and surveys.

In all, the noble-goal initiatives which basically depend on volunteers will, hopefully, alleviate the affected families' suffering from the two-year old crisis in the homeland.

Basma Qaddour

University students

I am very sad, I can't write, for the past four days I couldn't write, it was a big shock, not to me only, but to all the people around me, I want to ask those who killed the university students, why you did that??? their mothers were waiting for them, they were preparing lunch for them, they were very proud of them, they wished they could hold their sons or girls, they wished they could tell them how much they loved them, they wished they could understand why you killed them, they wished to say goodbye to their lovely young, yes they were very young to die, what did they do for you, why did you kill them ? I want to cry " why did you kill the students?" they have books not arms, they have future, but oh they have nothing now, God bless them.

Did you see Ahmed in the daily telegraph, the eight-year-old boy on the front line with the terrorists, It is one of the most shocking images from the war on Syria. An eight-year-old boy draws deeply on a cigarette, the small fingers of his other hand clutching a an AK-47 rifle that balances awkwardly against his chest, they want our students to be terrorists, they don't want them to learn, but to stay ignorant, murderers, and villains, who kill each other.

I wish I can see the face of the murderer, is he happy?  It is the act of senseless violence that shocked all Syrian people, and has left us with the unfathomable question :

" Why?" I would like to ask you, for hundred times why you did it, why you took the life of innocent boys and girls away?

You caused us pain, but more suffering to their parents, but I think you are emotionless to understand the feeling of people, have you a mother? Have you a son? Have you a blood in your veins? No I don't think so.

Before the global war on Syria, we were living in peace, we couldn't imagine that there are such persons on this earth, you are such a cruel man, such a bad man, you have no empathy, no emotion, you have nothing except cruelty. I feel pity for you and for your mother, I don't think she knows what you did, but God knows and will not forgive you.

These students were gifted, one day they may become architects, they may have many plans to build Syria, the buildings you have destroyed with your evil friends, who came from other countries just to destroy Syria, I know that it was a very tragic loss for all real Syrians, it is our destiny to suffer, we have to live our lives, and life goes on. We Syrians will stay together, and will take care of each other, we will move on, although your act of cruelty you brought about the premature death of bright students, who already achieved so much and had so much to look forward to in the future, they will not come back, the painful realization that their life was snuffed out for ever, but their spirit will be always around us, to encourage us, suffering cannot crush us, but make us more stronger, instead of looking at obstacles, mishaps, or bad experiences as terrible drawbacks and horrible handicaps, we can use those things to better our own lives and the lives of others.

"The beautiful colors of the rainbow can only be seen through the prism of rain".

Butheina Alnounou

Al-Shammat: Meeting Displaced Families Basic Needs, Priority


DAMASCUS, (ST) - Meeting the basic needs of terrorism-affected families in more than 700 temporary sheltering centers is a top priority of the Higher Relief Committee's policy, Minister of Social Affairs Kinda al-Shammat said on Wednesday, stressing media's important role in explaining the way the committee conveys the assistance to the displaced families in all Syrian provinces.

In a press conference, al-Shammat said that the ministry has put a framework for cooperation between the country's civil society associations and the UN relief organizations acting in Syria, so as these associations draw up a development plan to distribute humanitarian assistance in as many areas as possible based on the branch relief committees' assessment to the requirements of each area. 

She pointed out that these associations should open a bank account especially for the assistance provided by international organizations.

Regarding the financial aid provided by UN Higher Commission for Refugees to the affected families, Minister al-Shammat said the ministry specified the conditions of providing this kind of assistance so as to meet the needs of most affected families based on lists prepared by the Local Administration Ministry in coordination with the governor of each provice.

"The work of the international relief organizations acting in Syria is not up to the expectations," al-Shammat said, pointing out that the ministry plans to implement several programs aiming to provide psychological and social support for families, particularly women and children, staying at temporary shelters and that in this respect, the ministry will sign an agreement with the UNICEF on social and psychological care.

Regarding the financial support provided to civil society associations, al-Shammat said that the ministry last year transferred some (SYP) 120 million to these associations. The money are to be also transferred to branch relief committees in the Syrian provinces according to the needs of each area.

H. Mustafa