Dead to Red Race: I am running for my Syrian friends
By Amber Savage, Deputy Program Manager, Syrian Refugee Response February 2012-February 2014
Sports have always been a big part in my life. I spent a good portion of my childhood and teenage years playing sports in my hometown Los Angeles. I played soccer, volleyball and softball. For ten years, I coached a high school girls’ volleyball team. However, on the 13th of March, I will take on the biggest sport’s challenge of my life so far. Together with five Syrian refugees and CARE colleagues from Kenya, Jordan and Lebanon I will run 242 kilometers from the Dead Sea to the Red Sea. We all have different reasons that will keep us going. Amal used to be a teacher in Yarmouk Camp and is running for all the Syrian children who cannot go to school anymore. Omran is running for his mother who was shot by a sniper on her way to the hospital with her sick daughter. Mousab is running so his daughter does not have to paint sad pictures anymore. Reshma works with Somali refugee children in Dadaab and wants to deliver messages from those children to their brothers and sisters from Syria. Our reasons might differ but they all come down to the same idea: We want to raise awareness about the dire humanitarian situation at hand. For me, running for the plight of Syrian refugees has a lot to do with the time I spent in Syria.
I lived and worked in Syria for years until the beginning of the uprising in 2011. When I think of Syria now, I think of the old town in Damascus, the amazing food and, above all, the Syrians who became true friends to me. I will never forget my time in Syria. I deeply admire the warmth and humor of the Syrians I met while living in Damascus. I have never met such genuine and hospitable people. Hardly one day passed without an invitation to eat with one of my Syrian friends’ families. Now their lives have been uprooted. They have lost their jobs, their houses, their family members. Some have had to leave the country; others looked for a new and safer home within Syria’s borders. I have a friend who has very recently been released from prison. I was able to have a quick catch-up on Skype with him over the last few weeks. It is very hard to describe how relieved I was to talk to him and to know that he is going to be alright.
Other friends have less good news to report. One of my friends told me the other day that his uncle was kidnapped and then shot. Some friends made it safely out of Syria with their families, but are suffering from the consequences of being uprooted, having to leave home, being without work and a safe shelter while continuing to process the violence they and their children witnessed. Knowing that the people who hosted me and were ready to give me anything I needed at any time are suffering now, makes me very sad. At the same time I admire their continued strength, courage and their passion and love for a country which is now nothing like it used to be.
The Syria Crisis has taught me how one can have everything today and be left with nothing the next day. This is one of the reasons why I chose to work with Syrian refugees in Jordan for the past two years where I have been coordinating CARE’s urban refugee centers in Amman and Zarqa. I wanted to give something back, make a difference for at least some of them. I will be running the marathon for them, and for the inspiring Syrian volunteers I met on a daily basis in Jordan.
When I run the Dead to Red marathon I also want people around the world to understand how similar Syrian refugees are to all of us. Many of the Syrians I met on a daily basis are doctors, nurses, teachers, lawyers or students. Each of them is someone’s mother, father, daughter, son, brother or sister. Many of them are well-educated middle class people who remind me very much of my own friends and family back home. When I hear their stories, I am reminded just how easily I could be in their shoes were war to break out in my country.
While you may not be in Jordan in March, there are other ways you can support the team and CARE’s work:
- Make a contribution that will go directly to helping people caught in the conflict >
- Create your own online race team and challenge your friends meet your goal >
- Are you the person who has everything? Ask for a donation in lieu of a birthday gift >
- Spread the word using #Dead2Red and #withSyria — and keep up on Facebook and Twitter >