Two new reports came out in the past week that paint a grim picture for the children of conflict-ridden Syria. Last week, I heard the Oxford Research Group's findings that 11,000 children have been killed in the region, many of whom were tortured and targeted by snipers, which is appalling and heart-wrenching. But it was this morning's episode of the CBC's The Current that made me want to weep. The United Nations now says that many of the one million-plus Syrian children living as refugees are separated from their families or working in horrible conditions in foreign places. In other words, children in the conflict zone (more than four million still in the country) have a high chance of being killed by strikes or ending up far from home; lonely, uneducated and exploited (should they be fortunate enough to be able to leave Syria in the first place).
The Current interviewed an 11-year-old boy whose father and 18-year-old brother were taken by the Syrian army 10 months ago. He takes care of his mother and two sisters, ages nine and seven, by selling gas on the black market. His friends have all fled and he misses playing soccer with them. He's gotten used to the sound of daily strikes, but his sisters live in fear. He misses school and wants to be a doctor someday. Go and listen now (keep tissues handy).
Kids! Suffering! How can we allow this to happen? How can we know it's happening and still worry about our to-do lists, or worse, our gift lists? The news moves on to more current events (Typhoon Haiyan, for example) and as parents who are sensitive to the tragedy that occurs outside our homes, we struggle to know which cause to give energy to. (Particularly as sleep-deprived humans who lack energy to give.) And often, it's all just so overwhelming — to think about all the unnecessary suffering in the world. We feel powerless. I, for one, can't shake the nagging feeling that my donations to charities like the Red Cross aren't enough. Shouldn't someone else, someone bigger than us, be doing something about this? About all of it?
I don't know what the answer is, but I do know we have to keep talking about it. We have to say publicly that we can't abide this. We need to remind each other to proceed with kindness and to think from the heart. We need to band together in our communities to figure out how we can feel like we are doing something for the greater good. In doing so, we need to teach our children that every little bit counts, even if the news doesn't always make us feel like it.
Organizations focused on the issue of Syrian children:
I'd love to hear about smaller, grassroots efforts. If you are involved in one, please let me know in the comments below.