I remember the moment when I realized that not all children have a happy childhood. That was eye-opening to me. After I heard stories of people close to me who had nothing to eat, and nobody to come home to, it changed the way I saw life. I realized then, that although life is unfair, we can do little things to make it fairer.
When I was a senior in college I had a professor who inspired me by his story. He taught me, through simple lessons, that we can make a difference; we just have to know the difference we want to make. Since then, I have done what I can to discover what that is. It was that same year, while I was writing my thesis that I heard of the outbreak of the Syrian War and the sobering reality of the lives that had been shattered.
I decided then that I not only wanted to make a difference in the lives of children and youth, but also work with refugee populations. When I met Christopher, I was pursuing a Certificate of Nonprofit Management and had decided to work with refugee youth and families. After hearing of his idea to develop vocational education centers to provide opportunities to refugee youth, I knew that I had to be involved.
A few months following, I decided to volunteer some time in Greece to better understand the refugee situation on the ground. My first day in the normally sleepy seashore town, I was greeted by welcoming hugs and well-practiced “hellos” by the Yazidi refugees who had fled Northern Iraq.
What followed was three months of humbling experience after humbling experience. I taught and played with these sweet little children, precious and eager to learn. It wasn’t until later that I read the UN Report on the Yazidi genocide or heard their personal accounts that I really understood what they had experienced. I felt sick. The parents who smiled pleasantly every morning and the same kids who ran to you to greet you - wanting to be spun in circles, were the same ones who had seen their families ripped from them.
The invasion of the Yazidi people was systematic and designed for maximum trauma. Thousands of Yazidis were killed and captured. Men were executed, young boys were forced to become child soldiers, an estimated 7,000 women and girls were taken into sexual enslavement. Those who survived the initial invasion of their ancestral land, were forced to seek refuge in the mountain, where hundreds more died of dehydration and many more died sailing across the Aegean Sea. After hearing these stories, I was deeply aware of the preciousness of each person and the miracle it was to exchange smiles or laughs with them.
This story of forced migration is one of many, experienced by refugees all around the world. Families have been forced to flee their homelands in the millions. This experience had a profound impact on me and I came to deeply reverence the value of life. I remember one of the little girls asking me, will you always be my friend? I understood then that I symbolized hope for this little girl, as did the other volunteers.
Hope is the basis for the emotional and psychological needs that make up humankind. In order to heal from trauma and move forward we need a friend, a light...hope.
Some of us have the opportunity to serve in a life changing capacity. I believe that Rebuild for Peace is the answer so many are looking for. In order to end the cyclical pattern of violence and hate, we need to help those who are disposed to desperation and replace it with opportunities that can lend hope.
Right now there are over 65.6 million forcibly displaced and 22.5 refugees in the world, over half of whom are under the age of 18. These people have lost everything. However, many cling to their identities and seek for ways to escape the resonating trauma. Rebuild for Peace offers a path to economic security by educating peace builders and providing vocational training. We are dedicated to rebuilding lives and communities, but most importantly hope.
Please help us rebuild lives. The conditions are dismal, but the human spirit is resilient. We believe strongly that we can make a difference now and in the future if we educate the young generation and encourage them to rebuild in their communities.
This is Why I #RebuildforPeace
Join us on our journey to rebuild for peace. Become one of our Ambassador’s, contribute to our programs, and partner with us in your community.