New soles for Syrian souls

More than 450 of the poorest elderly people in Syria have received new shoes – thanks to a leading Catholic charity. The grant, made by the UK office of Aid to the Church in Need, provides for people in Aleppo in their 60s and 70s, many of them living alone and lacking the income to cover the most basic needs.

ACN project partner Sister Annie Demerjian told the charity: “I am very happy for the [elderly people] to have warm shoes as they do not have to heat in their rooms or they are working outside. “They depend on God and the emergency aid is given to them. Their children may have fled aboard or they remain in the city but are so poor that they cannot help.” She added: “Sometimes I see my dad and mum in these elderly people when I visit them suffering at the end of their life.”

“When they were trying on the new shoes we saw that five or six persons were wearing plastic bags in their shoes to protect their feet from the water.” Each pair of shoes cost on average £11 – a good price according to ACN Middle East project partners, given Syria’s rampant inflation.

Sister Annie spoke of how young families are struggling in Syria. She said: “Life has become expensive 100,000 Syrian pounds (£140) is needed for medicine and rent every month. None of the families can afford this – they earn less than half this amount. “It is very difficult for people to find work here and those who do work earn very little. This is especially true for the old people.”

Sister Annie said that in response she and her 10 volunteers reach out to people in need across Aleppo and, working with others, she provides help including blankets and clothes in other Syrian towns and cities, including Homs, Maaloula and Hassake. She added: “The volunteers give the [needy people] cash for electricity and daily necessities and vouchers for food at local supermarkets. Also, many families need help with rent.”

“We are helping Christian families that we know are in desperate need – we help any family that knocks on our door and we do not ask them their religion. In east Aleppo – now open again – we distributed coats and goods to the children.”

Speaking of aid recipient Janet Kassar, aged 79, Sister Annie said: “One volunteer, Joseph gives aid to [Janet] and every time they meet she lights a candle and opens hands offering a prayer of thanks to ACN’s benefactors.”

Thanking the charity on behalf of Mrs Kassar and the hundreds of others, the Sister added: “I want to say a big thank you for remembering our brothers and sisters in Christ. I want to assure you of the grateful thanks of families that pray every day for the help they receive.”

Last year, Aid to the Church in Need fulfilled more than 140 projects in Syria, most of them involving emergency aid.

Mercado O Flaherty – ACN UK