a true story of hope: the world is smaller than we think

Leading up to the five-year mark of the Syrian war, CARE invited a handful of former World War II refugees — original CARE Package recipients in 1940s Europe — to write letters of hope to Syrian refugee children. Some truly moving connections have emerged between people who, though separated by decades and distance, share so much.

When I hear of the Syrian refugee crisis, I often think of my great-grandparents, who fled Germany with their two young daughters during WWII.

Their ability to resettle in the U.S. was only because of the kindness, compassion, and generosity of an Iowa family.

I grew up hearing the story told and re-told. My great-grandmother — in the middle of an air raid with sirens blaring — made her way under a tunnel where winter coats from America were being distributed. She received a couple of random coats and left.

Later, when she put on the wool coat, her hand found a small, folded note, tucked away in a pocket. There, in inky scrawl, was a note from a family in Iowa, sharing that they were praying for the recipient. An address was included.

She wrote to them, they wrote to her, and the Iowa family became sponsors for their immigration. They helped my great-grandparents and their girls secure passage to the U.S., and opened their home to them when they arrived.

Hearts healed. Lives changed. Futures altered. 

All because of a seemingly random letter.

All because of compassion from the other side of the world.

it’s happening today

Intense fighting in Syria has forcibly displaced more people today than any other country – and there is no end in sight to the conflict.

It’s considered the worst humanitarian crisis since the second World War.

Every day, thousands of Syrians flee violence to seek out food, protection, medical care and other urgently-needed aid.

There are 12 million people inside Syria displaced or in desperate need of humanitarian aid. At least half of the displaced are children. 

 

sending hope #withsyria

CARE, a leading humanitarian organization dedicated to fighting poverty of the oppressed, has connected WWII survivors who were refugees as children with Syrian children who are current refugees.

These survivors, who were recipients of the world’s first CARE Packages, are paying it forward 70 years later, sending compassion — and so much more — to Syrian refugee children. The result? Deeply moving connections between people who, though separated by decades and distance, share so much.

Care to Syrian Refugees letters from WWII survivors compassion and love Many Sparrows blog

Care to Syrian Refugees letters from WWII survivors compassion and love Many Sparrows blog

Care to Syrian Refugees letters from WWII survivors compassion and love Many Sparrows blog

Care to Syrian Refugees letters from WWII survivors compassion and love Many Sparrows blog

You really have to watch some of these stories (and read the WWII survivors’ letters) for yourself. They’re incredible, and include correspondence from:

  • Former child war refugee Gunter Nitsch, now 78 and living in Chicago, shared his story – and more — with 8-year-old Zaher, a Syrian refugee in Jordan.
  • When 16-year-old Sajeda opened the letter from 87-year-old Helga, she couldn’t have known how it would bridge the distance — and the decades — between them.
  • Hope is exactly what Renata Senter wished to express when she wrote to 13-year-old Duha. “I would like to get to know you and hope that I will be able to help you … achieve your goal.”
  • Joe feels a kinship with 12-year-old Shadi, and it doesn’t end with their shared child-war-refugee experience.

CARE has created a free online letter writing portal so all of us can write a very short letter of support to a Syrian refugee child. A selection of these messages will be translated into Arabic and shared with Syrian refugee children. Here’s what I wrote:

Things might be hard right now, and maybe even sad or scary. You can be brave. There are people around the world who love you and are praying for you. Stay strong, and don’t lose hope. There is always hope. I love you!

I really encourage you to hop over and write a quick letter.

Syrians inside and outside of Syria have endured five years of war. Millions have been forced from their homes, seeking refuge in other countries.

I know writing a letter is such a seemingly small thing, but really, it can mean so very much. Never underestimate the power of words, and the power of hope. Reassure them that they are not forgotten. That you care. Send your message of hope.

It can be all the difference in the world to know you’re not alone.

Please also consider making a donation toward sending a CARE package for a Syrian refugee family. CARE has a high Charity Navigator rating, and a donation of any amount helps.

Care to Syrian Refugees letters from WWII survivors compassion and love Many Sparrows blog

If you’re unable to contribute monetarily, please join me in sharing this post on Facebook or Twitter to help share about the hope-filled work CARE is doing to come alongside children and families who are in a very dark situation.

This isn’t about politics or nationalities or any other lines in the sand that we draw to divide us. This is about compassion. About hope. About letting hurting people know they are not forgotten.

And that’s something I’m incredibly grateful for.

After all, I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for someone scribbling a small little letter of hope and prayerfully tucking it away in a donated jacket.

 

Photos courtesy of CARE.

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2 thoughts on “a true story of hope: the world is smaller than we think

    1. Thank you for reading, Elizabeth! It seems like one one of those moments that just changes the future’s trajectory, doesn’t it? And it all started with box of donated coats from a little church in Iowa… ❤

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