A mother lives in this small room with her husband, newborn and two older children. Although she recently delivered a baby, she is the family’s main source of financial support, so must work a full schedule as a maid. Photo by Sam Tarling for Caritas Switzerland.
I’m writing because I promised a woman on the Syrian border that I would share her story with you.
It’s a promise I found I was making to women across the border areas. The images we see of this devastating humanitarian crisis rarely capture those at the heart of it: women. In this part of the world, many women are not comfortable being photographed. But women were everywhere: tugging at my sleeve, showing me their wounds, describing what happened to their husbands and sons, begging me to listen to their stories.
Yazi* is among them. When she fled across the border of Lebanon, she was well into her third pregnancy, toting two sons under age 5. Like so many Syrian refugees, Yazi is caught in the middle of a war she never intended to fight. The majority of refugees are women sent ahead to find safety with their children and elderly parents, praying that their beloved husbands, sons and fathers are still alive.
Yazi was determined to provide for her children. She walked up to a Lebanese home and offered her services as a maid. To her relief, the position came with a room that she kept through her pregnancy and delivery.
A team of social workers and nurses with our partner Caritas Lebanon met with Yazi in her modest quarters. Seeing her newborn, they asked about her delivery. “Where did you go? What kind of care did you have?”
Yazi quietly responded that because she didn’t have money for hospital fees, she delivered her child at home—by herself.
Stunned, my colleagues asked if she had seen a doctor since. “No,” she said. “Really, I have no way to pay or to go.”
Our team immediately offered Yazi a ride to a Catholic Relief Services-supported clinic. In the backseat of the car, she and her sons were silent, except for a moment when she whispered something to herself. My colleague later translated what she said:
“I can’t believe you’re doing this for me…I can’t believe it.”
Staff members of a local CRS partner drive the mother and her children to the clinic for the mom’s first examination since delivery. The children were in awe of the big car. Their mom says she is grateful and couldn’t believe people were doing this for her. Photo by Sam Tarling for Caritas Switzerland.
Yazi and her children received attention from a kind doctor before returning home. She also received food, diapers and other essentials from CRS.
Yazi is one of the tens of thousands of Syrian refugees that CRS teams are working around the clock to assist. With 860,000 refugees pouring into Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey, we are doubling our efforts to provide what they so desperately need. These mothers and grandmothers, forced to flee at a moment’s notice, are doing all they can to keep their families safe.
Your support of CRS’ emergency response for Syrian refugees provides food, soap and essential living supplies. It also provides education, trauma counseling and recreational activities for children. For mothers like Yazi, who are working so hard to hold their families together, your gift is a source of much-needed relief, an answer to a prayer.
Please keep the women of Syria in your thoughts and prayers. It would mean so much to them. I know this because I promised them I would ask.
Catholic Relief Services
*Yazi’s name has been changed.