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Emergency food brings hope to families

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When Mira and her family fled from their home in Syria, she decided to quickly pack a lone piece of jewellery in her bag. She had no idea that one day that bracelet would be the difference between her family having a roof over their heads, and living on the street.

Prior to the war, Mira, her husband Tarek, and their eight children lived a contented life together in northwestern Syria. Tarek worked, and Mira stayed at home with the children.

But when the violence began, it changed their lives forever.

One day, when Tarek was on his way home from work, a missile hit the bus he was riding in.

“I thank God he wasn’t killed,” says Mira. But Tarek was injured, his legs becoming paralyzed.

As the violence and destruction in their city continued to intensify, Mira and Tarek felt they had no choice but to flee for the sake of their children.

The family went to a coastal city that was not experiencing fighting, but although it was safer, life wasn’t much easier. People from conflict-affected areas were flooding in, putting pressure on infrastructure, causing rents to rise, and making work hard to come by.

The family stayed with friends at first, while Mira searched for an apartment. She sold her bracelet in exchange for two months of rent, and borrowed money for food.

That was a big relief, but things took a turn for the worse a few weeks later when Tarek developed gangrene. His condition worsened, but they couldn’t afford medical help, and he soon passed away.

Mira and the children were devastated over the sudden loss of their husband and father.

“The only thing that kept me from falling to pieces was knowing that the children were now completely dependent on me,” says Mira.

Through a neighbour, Mira heard about a food assistance program at a local church funded by Canadian Foodgrains Bank and its member World Renew, and implemented by Lebanese Society for Educational and Social Development (LSESD).

The project, which is providing assistance to 2,000 people in Syria per month for six months, is worth $676,000. It is supported in part through a special grant from the Canadian government.

Mira went to the church and asked for help. The next day, project staff visited Mira’s apartment to assess the family’s needs. They were disturbed by the unhealthy pallor of the children’s faces and their shabby clothing.

Mira was troubled by their condition, too. “They are no longer in school because I can’t afford to pay for their books and stationary,” says Mira. “I found some work at a café, but it’s not even enough to cover rent for my family…. I have mountains of burden on my shoulder.”

The next day, project staff returned carrying a food package for Mira and her children. As Mira thanked them tearfully, the children delved into the package with excitement to see what they would soon be eating.

The staff also told Mira where she could try to get assistance for paying rent.

During a follow-up visit, project staff were able to see that while the family’s situation was still challenging, it had improved enough that the children looked healthier, and had returned to school.

And Mira? Her well being had also increased, and she feels better able to handle the difficulties that she faces in her war-torn country now that she is receiving this crucial support.

Mira’s story is one of many that come to the Foodgrains Bank through project reports from partner organizations in the region. They all involve leaving behind stable lives in Syria to find safety from the war. But all are unique – some heartbreakingly so, like with Mira. Although things are still challenging, many end on a hopeful note due to help through the Foodgrains Bank and its members.

Canadians who want to help people affected by the war can do so by making a donation at www.foodgrainsbank.ca

—Canadian Foodgrains Bank release

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