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The voice of Scotland’s vibrant voluntary sector

Published by Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

TFN is published by the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, Mansfield Traquair Centre, 15 Mansfield Place, Edinburgh, EH3 6BB. The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) is a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation. Registration number SC003558.

Supporting Syria from near and afar

This opinion piece is over 7 years old

Christy Delafield writes for TFN on Mercy Corps' ongoing aid programme in Syria

Many of us in the humanitarian sector know how important headquarter support is to our field staff.

While we may sit in offices in Edinburgh, and in other cities in Europe and the US, we are constantly working to provide our teams with programmatic, fundraising, HR, finance and communications support so they can help more people who need our help.

However, when times of crisis hit – like recently in Aleppo – we can sometimes feel very remote from the work happening on the ground.

I am lucky in that I have the privilege and responsibility to be deployed to see first-hand the great effect organisations like ours can make on lives in tough environments.

I write this from Mercy Corps’ office in Gaziantep, Turkey. From our warehouses here, trucks are loaded with vital supplies such as flour that cross the border and are delivered across northern Syria. As one of the largest aid operations in the country, each month we are able to reach around 470,000 Syrians with our support.

While we have worked for many years in Syria, the past weeks have seen some of the most acute crisis the country has faced in the nearly six-year civil war. The final days of the bombardment and siege of Eastern Aleppo has become a stuttering evacuation of tens of thousands of people.

So far, Mercy Corps has received more than 5,000 of the evacuees from Aleppo at one of our welcome centres. There, our courageous Syrian team members have worked tirelessly to provide food, shelter and urgent medical care.

The conditions are tough. In temperatures hovering around freezing, I’m hearing from our team how Aleppans have waited for hours and days with few supplies to be evacuated. When they leave their homes, they are able to take very few personal possessions with them because of a lack of space on the buses transporting them out.

I’m speaking to our team members daily and they tell me they are constantly searching for new ways to help those displaced. When I marvel at their energy and strength, in the face of such difficulty, they tell me that they don’t let themselves feel tired, “we’ll feel tired after everything is completed.”

It is not lost on me, or any of us, that so many of our Syrian team members are displaced themselves. One colleague said to me about evacuees from Aleppo: "They are sad to leave their homes. It is so hard to leave the house you grew up in and lived in all your life. I know because I left my home in Syria also."

As long as we’re needed, Mercy Corps will continue to receive displaced people when violence forces them to flee their homes and support Syrians in need in other parts of the country.

But, of course, as a non-profit organisation, our courageous team on the frontlines can only do their work thanks to our talented team in Edinburgh and the generosity of those elsewhere. We would like to thank the generous individuals in Scotland and beyond who donate to our work.

With our European headquarters based in Edinburgh, Mercy Corps is lucky to benefit from Scottish support for our work in more than 40 countries around the world.

Whether it is being the international charity partner of the Edinburgh Disaster Response Committee or from the funds raised when individuals participate in the 97.3km Tour de Forth, we are honoured to be part of the Scottish community.

You can send a message to the Mercy Corps Syria team to express your support and admiration for their work at the front of a tough environment.

Christy Delafield is senior global communications officer at Mercy Corps.