One day few months back, Ahmad Al-Najem, Field Operations Coordinator of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) was called to support an evacuation of a small town in a hard to reach area in Syria. When he arrived together with his colleagues at the last checkpoint in front of the town, they were told to walk through the buffer zone to check whether the community in the area was ready to relocate.
Since there was not much time, he started to walk with a colleague the 600m of no-man’s-land towards the people in need without any further protection aside from the Red Cross / Red Crescent emblem on their vests. They felt afraid but were trustful that the agreement of the conflict parties was kept and nothing would happen to them on this stretch.
Only the most precious
When they reached the other side without any incident, they agreed with the community to conduct the evacuation in two days since more than 2,000 people were waiting with their belongings to be relocated. The people were carrying their most precious properties, a small quantity of what they would like to keep with them, with a lot of things left behind.
Out of a sudden, an old man approached Ahmad, asking him for help. He wanted to take his only belongings with him on the journey to his new life: his twelve goats. Ahmad, firstly being very surprised about this wish, felt that these goats meant everything to the old man and how important it was to this man to not leave the goats behind. Ahmad wanted to help.
Where is the old man
He told the man to not get into a bus and to wait until the day after. He made several calls, including to his supervisors to get a pick-up truck for the next day and arranged permits. None has ever received this kind of request before, so everyone was surprised, but willing to help somehow.
But when he reached the town again the next morning, he couldn’t find the old man. He asked everywhere if someone had seen him and was told to check the bus that was just about to leave. Ahmad reached the bus just in time before the checkpoint and found the man inside. He was about to leave.
Ahmad screamed to him: let’s go, I got the pickup truck, let’s get your goats.
But the old man looked at him and said: I set them free this morning.
A refugee story with respect and care for humanity
Ahmed, once back to the office, asked to RC partners if it was possible to help the old man, buying new goats. It was agreed to include him in some of the supported programmes.
Despite all the efforts, at the moment it has not been possible to trace the old man.
SARC and the humanitarian actors in Syria are working hard and tireless for the population suffering of the consequences of the conflict, but not all the stories could have a happy ending.
But this real story shows that even in situation where there is sorrow and desperation, there could be small signs of hope, that often surface when there is respect and care for other human beings, the essence of the work of SARC and humanitarians in Syria.
Pictures by: SARC