July 31st, 2020
The Work of EPDC and My Experiences Volunteering at a Refugee Camp
HART is partnered with EPDC (St. Ephrem Patriarchal Development Committee), which provides the means for people living in poverty and under oppression to increase their capacity to improve their living conditions. Following HART’s partnership with the EPDC, it has worked to help empower the women of Maaloula to combat food scarcity in their community. EPDC enables these women to prepare and conserve excess seasonal food for the winter for approximately 300 of the most vulnerable families in the community including their own, enabling Maaloula women to maintain their roles as breadwinners.
The conflict in Syria has lasted over nine years. Now, as many Syrians who left the country following the outbreak of war are considering returning, the question of international economic sanctions will play a significant role in the quality of life they can expect. Hilal Elver, UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, has recently stated that, “the continued imposition of crippling economic sanctions on Syria… severely undermines the ordinary citizens’ fundamental right to sufficient and adequate food.”
During the summer of 2019, I spent several months volunteering in the Moria refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesvos. The camp, which was built to house 3,000 refugees, is now home to over 19,000. The majority of the refugees are from Afghanistan, Somalia, Syria and Iran. Whilst volunteering I worked with women and children living in the camp, many of whom had made the dangerous journey from Syria but, after discovering the difficulty of applying for refugee status in Europe, were considering return.
When attempting to find the best future for themselves and their (often young) children, these women were faced with two equally difficult options: return to Syria, or stay living in the inhumane conditions in the camp, waiting for their asylum to granted, a process that usually takes over a year. Many of the women I spoke to were concerned about picking up their careers and degrees, and how they would be able to provide for their families.
The work of the EPDC directly seeks to address this problem by enabling women who return to Syria to pick up their lives and become self-sufficient in providing for their families. This work is particularly essential in view of the stringent economic sanctions which make everyday life more difficult for Syrians.
By Abbie Brooks, Fundraising Intern
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