Smugling help into Syria – helping the needy
Posted by African Press International on March 25, 2012
SYRIA: Khalil Al Asfar, “I felt it was my duty to do something to help my Syrian brothers”
AMMAN, – Khalil Al Asfar, from Dera’a in southern Syria, was barely 20 when he left the country in 1990 to try his chances in the USA, where he became the successful manager of a plumbing company in New York.
As he watched the harsh crackdown on protests by the government, Al Asfar decided to do something. He founded an association called Syria First Coalition, and began collecting donations from Syrians living in the USA. With the funds, he bought and distributed relief aid to Syrians who have sought refuge abroad or smuggled it to those still inside.
He is one of many among the Syrian diaspora who have decided to go back home and find creative ways to help. In the absence of unhindered access by humanitarian aid agencies, actions like his have become vital in supplying relief items to vulnerable civilians inside Syria. Al Asfar told IRIN his story as he brought medical supplies to a pick-up point in Jordan.
“The idea of creating Syria First Coalition came immediately after I saw how the uprising in Syria, that began in my hometown, Dera’a, was heavily and cruelly repressed by the regime. If I look at my life now, I can say I’ve been quite a lucky man. I felt it was my duty to do something to help my Syrian brothers who were still in the country and whose lives had become hell.
“We organized several charity events in the States those past months, and with the money collected, I came here in Jordan in January 2012 where I joined local activists who escaped from Syria, who I first talked to by email and through Skype calls. They put me in touch with Syrian refugees here, in Amman, but mostly in the towns of Irbid and Ramtha, a few kilometers from Dera’a, which is located just across the border.
“So far, we already distributed hundreds of food parcels and other commodities for the Syrian families living here. Sometimes, I also use our funds to finance some micro-investments, like today when I just brought a fridge and a new washing-machine to a group of 15 refugees sharing a small apartment in Irbid.
“Another part of our activities is to gather medical supplies, like basic medicines or cervical collars [neck braces], and to get them smuggled inside Syria through secure channels. Some doctors in Syria tell us what is needed, and we make it pass to Dera’a across the border. Then, it is redistributed along other channels all over the country.
“But my best memory remains probably the event we organized in January for 100 children from Syria, here in Amman. During one afternoon, we brought them to a playground where we organized games and other activities with them, and we offered each one a small gift. It was fantastic to see those kids – a lot of whom have been traumatized by what they saw and what they experienced – to laugh and smile again, even if it was only for a brief moment.”