For two years, one UAE-based man has been working tirelessly to send aid to his home country.
What began as a group of five college friends from Syria wanting to do something for their country has, in the two years since its inception, grown into a Dhs2 million project. Now, Aleppo’s Expatriates provides relief and education to more than 3,000 Syrians in war zones. Indeed no one could question the resolve of the company’s co-founder, Haytham O, a business owner in Abu Dhabi, who has laboured relentlessly to provide for citizens of his war-struck country.
‘We are from Syria, we needed to do something to help our country; our people,’ Haytham says.
The majority of the help Aleppo’s Expatriates gives is through relief support; providing food hampers for families in war zones, including baby formula for thousands of infants. The organisation buys huge amounts of food and divides it into packages. ‘You see these millions of refugees on the news, but what about those left behind? There are 20 million people surviving in Syria, there is no income for them – no relief from the war,’ Haytham says.
Not only does Aleppo’s Expatriates send food, it also provides computers and internet for people to communicate with the outside world to enable them to call for help and stop the feeling of isolation. It has even established a pharmaceutical distribution chain and, in winter, provides coats and shoes for children.
Currently, the goal of the organisation is to provide relief during war time, however there is also a long-term plan, which is to open an orphanage. The Space of Hope project currently offers financial support to people looking after 265 orphans, but Haytham hopes to one day have a building to house these children.
Aleppo’s Expatriates doesn’t fund-raise as such, with the majority of cash coming from their own pockets. Haytham says: ‘We started with five founders on Facebook, then we invited friends and family – we donate our own money and raise a bit through our contacts.’
Diplomatic with the donations, he says donors can choose where to allocate money; whether it be for education, relief aid, pharmaceuticals or the orphanage. It’s all monitored and regulated, and expenditure charts are available for everyone to view on the company’s Facebook page.
Aleppo’s Expatriates is well-organised, but only to a degree, Haytham cautions. ‘We can’t plan too far ahead, the war doesn’t allow us. Bombs are dropping. When I was there a bomb exploded near me. A few metres closer and I wouldn’t be here. We can’t plan what will happen.’
When asked how he feels about being a hero to the people he helps, Haytham is modest: ‘This is a serious issue, these people are survivors. The people who are still living in Syria, they are cut off from the world – there are bombs going off around them, they don’t eat for days, they can’t feed their children. They are the heroes.’
More information can be found on the Facebook page: www.facebook.com/AlepposExpatriates.