"I am learning to love and to give to others what I myself have received,” says one student volunteer.
This group of college students volunteering to help impoverished Syrian families is not your typical group of charity workers.
What makes them different is they too have suffered the effects of the Syrian war, and now are taking time away from their studies to help Christians and Muslim families in Aleppo who are now in great need.
As members of the Orthodox Youth Movement, these 100-some university students are working to serve the 1,200 Christian families in Aleppo who have been hardest hit by the war.
“We are also helping 1,700 Muslim families, providing them with clothing, food, medicine and shelter for those who have lost their homes in the bombings,” Elias Faraj, a retired civil engineer who is coordinating the aid program, told Aid to the Church in Need, a major donor to the charity.
Faraj, like the student volunteers he works with, has felt first-hand the effects of the country’s war. He was abducted and held for ransom in 2011, and his sister was shot in the leg while taking a walk.
“But I have forgiven them. There are some who think that I am stupid for having done so, but I do forgive them. This is the true freedom that God gives us,” Faraj said.
After five years of civil war the country is still without electricity much of the time, water supply is limited, and many families are without the means to support themselves.
Joseph Abdo, a third-year medical student at the University of Aleppo, told Aid to the Church in Need that volunteering with the Orthodox Youth Movement and its aid program “has been a good experience, because it is teaching me to give to others what I myself have received.”
“I am longing for peace, first of all. Our generation is the one that is going to have to rebuild the country. I believe that it is our goal to work together to rebuild our community,” he said.
Gadan Naflek, a student volunteer, said she sees helping others in Syria as giving back.
“I am helping with the schooling of young children aged 3 and 4. It makes me really happy to be able to help other people, and I am learning to love and to give to others what I myself have received,” she said.
Aid to the Church in Need has supported the Orthodox Youth Movement since 2015, and is currently providing medical supplies for 2,200 Christian families, and money for electricity and food for 700 of the most needy Aleppo families. To learn more or contribute click here.