This week, B.C. Dodge and R. Mordant Mahon talk to IRUSA staff member Reem El-Khatib about Syria relief work and her trip to the border to teach refugee children martial arts, on this episode of “What a Relief!” — IRUSA’s official podcast.

As of next month, there will be 5-year-old children in Syria who have never known a day of peace. March 15 marks five years of what the United Nations has called the worst humanitarian crisis of our time.

The heart-wrenching violence in Syria affects everyone there, but in some ways it affects the children the most. And yet they are so resilient, IRUSA’s Reem El-Khatib says on this week’s podcast.

El-Khatib is head of IRUSA’s Syria committee, so she helps plan relief work for Syrians year-round. But in November of 2015, she wanted to help out in a more hands-on way, so she traveled to Turkey on her vacation time for a trip unaffiliated with her work. She went to a school near the Syrian border to teach a health and fitness martial arts class for refugee children.

One of her young students in particular became attached to her — a girl who should have been in 7th grade, but was in 3rd grade because she had missed four years of school. The conflict had stolen half of her education from her, and now she was working to get back on track.

“This girl was remarkable,” El-Khatib says. “She was so intelligent, so bright, so inspired, so full of energy. …These children are just like children everywhere else. They had been through so much and they had dealt with so much, but at the end of the day, they just wanted to play and learn and make friends and meet people and do arts and crafts.

“More than 50% of Syrian children don’t attend school anymore, but they’re still so hopeful, and they grasp onto anything they can possibly grasp onto to push themselves towards a brighter future,” El-Khatib said. “It’s amazing to see how resilient they are.”

El-Khatib came back even more inspired to help plan more relief for Syrians inside Syria and refugees outside the country.

“Anything we can do to provide for them, we’re committed to do it,” she says.

On this week’s podcast, find out what Islamic Relief staff ask — or what they don’t ask — before they offer aid to a Syrian refugee.

Find out what IRUSA donors are providing for Syrian families, and what matters most to them about the assistance they receive.

Find out what the refugees say, more than anything else, when they meet IRUSA staff.

Find out your prospects for volunteering with refugees overseas, and how you can prepare for such a possibility.

Also find out about the prospect for a possible “What a Relief” trip to the field, and whether B.C. is too pretty to go.

“What a Relief!” is the official podcast of Islamic Relief USA. Co-hosted by social media specialist B.C. Dodge, and Mordant Mahon, IRUSA’s “What a Relief!” puts a human face on what’s going on in the world and how you can enact positive change in it. New episodes every week!



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