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Tears are not enough

Friday, January 31, 2014
My clients don’t usually make me cry, and certainly not every day. So it’s been an unusual experience to work on Hand in Hand for Syria’s new website.

I should say that they are lovely people, and it’s not they who make me cry on a daily basis. It’s just that researching content for the new website has led me not only to watch and read some of the saddest things imaginable, but to feel a heart-breaking sense of powerlessness to help in my own strength.

That’s why I seem to keep saying ‘thank you’ to the people at Hand in Hand for Syria, and also by Facebook message to the guys at one of their hospitals there. They’re doing what I can’t do: they’re making a difference. A massive difference. And so by supporting them (by offering my professional services on a pro bono basis, and by being able to donate in a way which will get aid into Syria quickly), I can – at second hand – start to make a difference at last.

I can’t go to Syria, because it’s too dangerous. I don’t know how to buy and distribute aid. If I went, I’d probably do all the wrong things. And I don’t speak Arabic, so all I could do is smile at people and pat them on the arm. Of what use is that? But because I’ve got to know Hand in Hand for Syria from the inside, I can see that they’re not only doing it on behalf of all of us, but they’re doing it incredibly well, and doing it quickly. For which I am immensely grateful.

It’s been harrowing to watch and read accounts of what’s happening in Syria. There have been times when my brain has become overloaded, and simply refused to accept what it’s being told; when I’ve decided that it can’t possibly be happening. That it’s all a massive propaganda campaign by one side of the other, and how can I possibly have bought into it? But that feeling doesn’t last for more than a few minutes. Devastatingly, it’s all too true. And so I sit and continue to work, and sometimes I cry.

One such moment came when my main contact at the charity forwarded me an email from a colleague, just to pass on a bit of information. But further down the email, her colleague had commented that he had arrived in Ankara, Turkey, but had a long wait at the airport for the connecting flight to a small town near the Syrian border. The man simply said that he was ‘very tired’. I found that incredibly moving. I know there are many tired people at Hand in Hand for Syria; people who work very long hours, making a lot of personal sacrifices, in order to do the right thing.

But I have discovered from getting to know a few of them that they are extremely smart and efficient people. They have been on a vertiginous learning curve (who knows how to start up an aid agency?), and yet come out performing incredibly well. What they have achieved since 2011 is far beyond what you would think possible.

The charity’s head of media relations, for example, is a pharmacist by training, with two small children at home. Yet she handles her daily negotiations with some of the world’s biggest media brands, such as the BBC and CNN, like a seasoned pro. This is a very impressive group of people: intelligent, flexible, creative, determined and caring. And most of all, brave. That’s the combination you want when the goal is to save lives in the most dangerous country on earth.

And that is why I am proud to be involved with Hand in Hand for Syria; that’s why I have supreme confidence that the money I donate will be used quickly, and effectively, to help people whom I would have no idea how to help myself.

Because tears are not enough.