Mohamed is a Jafra Foundation volunteer working throughout the conflict in South Damascus for the last 3 years. More recently, Mohamed has been the focal point for a health project in Yelda, South Damascus – an area subject to immense destruction and an influx of displaced people from Yarmouk. At 25 years old, Mohamed a proud Palestinian, recognised early on in his career as a humanitarian, that nursing, medical attention and health are essential components of an effective response for those in need.
“For the last three years, I have been involved in the humanitarian relief work with Jafra Foundation for Relief and Youth Development in Syria. The commitment to work for me has felt like a moral obligation to my people and their suffering, unlike any employment or work I have undertaken before.
These people, men, women, children and the elderly deserve better than their suffering. What I have seen of these people’s suffering pushed me to work more and more to help alleviate their plight which began to feel like a meaningless life for them. I have become part-and-parcel of this daily plight, believing in the necessity to do everything in my power to help these people who have tolerated conditions that go beyond what a ‘humanitarian response’ can ease.
On a day to day basis, I hear stories of suffering, but none more tragic that touched me more deeply, than that of Mariam Um Mahmoud, an 87-year-old woman. Mariam left Palestine when she was 7 years-old as a little child and arrived in Yarmouk Camp Syria, following the loss of her parents and older brother killed by Israeli shelling on their family home in Jenin Town.
In Yarmouk Camp Mariam grew up largely alone until she married young at 16. It would be 11 years later before Mariam and her husband would have their first child. Their family grew to 5 after she gave birth to 3 boys; Mahmoud, Khaled and Abdul Rahman. However, with seemingly no end to Mariam’s suffering, her son Mahmoud was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2009 and died 4 years later in 2013. In the same year, her youngest son Abdul-Rahman was killed in a battle at the camp which was under siege at the time. The grief she faced due to the loss of her two sons was followed by her husband passing away at the end of 2013, sick and lacking an access to medical care.
In the years that passed, Mariam remained alone with her only son Khaled, who worked day and night in order to support his mother and accompany her travel requirements for medical attention after she contracted paraplegia. Now in a wheelchair and heavily dependent on Khaled, 2017 shelling in Yarmouk Camp resulted in Khaled’s death, leaving Mariam completely alone again, just as she had been in Palestine all those years ago.
By May 2018, Yarmouk was under an unprecedented offensive that devastated most of civilian houses forcing families to flee to the neighbouring towns. Mariam however, refused to leave home, adamant not to leave the only place her memories comforted her. By the end of May 2018 her home was destroyed along with her precious memories, forcing the old woman to be displaced into Yelda in South Damascus, which is where she told me her story, and one that will forever remain with me and a constant reminder of why my work is so important to those who have lost everything.”