Syria: Portrait of a volunteer

Published: 23 September 2013 13:11 CET

By Vivian Tou’meh, Syrian Arab Red Crescent

She likes art, painting and writing poetry. She has a master’s in vital energy at Francophone de Reiki France and, before moving to Tartus, she worked in Damascus. Abeer Rifaee is a bold 30-year-old Syrian, who joined the Syrian Arab Red Crescent 18 months ago, at a time when humanitarian work requires volunteers like Abeer to show immeasurable strength and courage.

When talking about the idea of volunteering, Abeer explains: “From the beginning, I liked the objectives of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent. I found out that in this ongoing crisis and with sectarian thoughts in our communities, the Red Crescent’s principles would be the best concept to survive. That’s why I decided to step forward and volunteer with the Red Crescent.”

To begin with, Abeer completed several courses for volunteers, including disaster management, first aid, advanced first aid and psychosocial support. Soon she was helping people in need, alongside her more experienced colleagues.

“It was not easy for me to look into the eyes of a father who cannot help his child, who has left his home in a mess. I wipe away my tears and put a smile on my face. Although it is difficult sometimes, I think I have to give a positive energy to those in need,” she says.

She has learnt that the Syrian Arab Red Crescent is not a charity but an organization that assists all people in need, in lots of different ways. “We have erected tents on the Al-Hamidieh road in the suburbs of Tartus. We have provided psychosocial support activities for children inside shelters, and distributed food, supervising the distribution process. These tasks, we have carried out countless times.”

“We faced a lot of difficulties during the distribution of relief items. For example, there was a lack of capacity due to the huge numbers of displaced people and there were problems with the lines of communication among Red Crescent team members because phone lines were down. This made the distribution process slow.”

“My skills are developing day by day. Also, my vision becomes clearer all the time. Despite the difficulties, I want to continue as a volunteer, since the value of human life is the most important thing in the world,” she adds.

She also has some painful memories, like the time she assisted in the evacuation of dead bodies in the city of Baniyas in May this year. Some 20 Red Crescent volunteers went to evacuate dead bodies from the area and Abeer felt she had to go no matter how difficult the work would be. She was one of five women accompanying the evacuation team.

“I had a feeling of ambiguity and fear for what we were going to face, but the importance of the work made me persistent and set me free from the fear I felt. It was the boldest task I ever did in my life, but it had to be done.”

Abeer’s current work sees her involved in hygiene promotion to raise awareness in communal shelters about how to reduce the spread of disease. “I am happy to be in the Red Crescent family. If my father were alive, he would be proud that I am in the largest faithful family in our country.”