How to get involved in the ‘Youth Outreach’ program
A group of volunteers has been sent to Syria to help build a network of youth in the war-torn country.
The program was set up last month in order to help Syrians identify and support young people who have lost their parents to the conflict.
“The program is about building relationships, about connecting people with the resources that are available,” said the coordinator of the Young Volunteers Program, Ali Al-Basha.
“This is a way to make sure that if you need to contact somebody, you’re not going to have to call them from a place where you have no contact with your family.”
The program has now grown to have almost 400 volunteers.
This week, the volunteers, who are all from the Middle East, are travelling to the capital, Damascus, to begin their journey.
“I think we’re going to be the first group in Syria to reach out to young people,” said one of the volunteers.
The volunteers, all from Arab countries, were chosen because they have connections to the country.
“We are Syrians.
We came from different parts of the world,” said Ali.
The Syrian conflict began in 2011, when President Bashar al-Assad banned protests and other forms of civil disobedience.
The war has continued with the country becoming embroiled in two more wars, in the north and the south.
The conflict has also caused a massive drop in Syria’s population, as the country’s population has fallen from some 10 million to under 2.5 million.
There are around two million people living in Syria, according to the United Nations.
Many of them have been displaced by the conflict, with millions of people fleeing the country to the Middle-East and Europe.
“Syria has been through war, but we have also experienced peace,” said Ahmad, one of those volunteering.
“Peace has been achieved by people coming together, people being strong, people sharing their story,” he said.
“People are now living together, in solidarity.”
The volunteers have received some assistance in their efforts.
A large building in the centre of Damascus was originally used as a makeshift shelter, but has been transformed into a makeshift orphanage for young people.
“They’ve made it their home, and I’ve heard the stories of their families,” said Sabah Al-Makhzoum, a volunteer with the group.
“There are families here now who are so scared they don’t even think about leaving the country.”
A number of young people are also being taught how to cook and work in the city, while others are being trained in other aspects of the humanitarian response to the crisis.
“It’s not just Syria.
The rest of the Middle Eastern region is experiencing the same problems,” said Ahmed, another volunteer.
“Some of the things we’ve seen in Lebanon and in Jordan, the same situation.”
The Young Volunteers program has a number of goals.
First, it aims to provide young people with access to social media.
“Social media is the most important tool for social change,” said Al-Abd, the coordinator.
“You need to be able to share your stories, to talk about your issues, because people want to know what’s happening.
We need to build the community in Syria.”
Second, the program aims to bring together people from different backgrounds, so that the young people can form networks and gain confidence in their abilities.
“What we’ve been doing, is to help people with an understanding of the difference between what they are doing and what their parents are doing,” said Muhammad, another Young Volunteers volunteer.
The network is also working with local groups to build a school to train Syrian students.
“Students can learn the skills of their future career,” said Abu Zayda, a teacher from the town of Al-Qubt.
“When I tell them what to do, they come up with their own solutions.”
“We’re here to help, but also to help the Syrians,” said Hassan, another of the young volunteers.
“A lot of people are doing everything we can to leave the country, but to do that, they need the support of the international community.”
This article was originally published by Al Jazeera and is reproduced with permission.