In Syria, where a civil war has been raging since 2011, more than 6,000 people flee the country every day. As of September, more than 4.1 million people have become refugees, and 7.6 million more have been internally displaced.
“The plight of Syria’s refugees is a litmus test for the world's compassion,” says Rotary International General Secretary John Hewko. “Rotary members worldwide are profoundly disheartened by the refugee crisis now unfolding in Syria and other parts of the world,” which the United Nations has described as the worst in decades.
“Rotary is following the situation closely,” Hewko says. “We know our members have an inherent desire to act, to relieve the suffering and uncertainty that displaced individuals and families are facing. We call on you to respond as Rotarians have for more than 100 years: to use your professional skills and acumen, leverage your connections to other leaders, and mobilize your local communities to provide the necessary resources and funding to address the humanitarian crisis.”
Rotary members can donate to the disaster relief efforts of our project partner ShelterBox. The organization has supported the Syrian relief effort for nearly four years and is working with other agencies to continue distributing relief materials. ShelterBox is also working with communities in Greece to provide aid and supplies to displaced people passing through the region.
Rachel Harvey, a member of a ShelterBox response team that recently returned from Greece, says Syrian refugees are making dangerous crossings to the shores of Greece.
As many as 2,000 people arrive daily on Lesbos’ northern beaches, says Harvey, referring to a Greek island in the Aegean Sea off the Turkish coast. The trip from Turkey to Greece usually takes about an hour and a half. “The flimsy rubber dinghies are invariably overcrowded, and the majority of passengers can’t swim,” she says.
Harvey adds: "The experience is terrifying. Another trauma added to the layers that many of the displaced have accumulated through war in Syria or South Sudan, insecurity in Afghanistan or Pakistan. One man told me: 'It was a nightmare. I don’t know how we got through that trip,' ” she says.
Says Hewko: “We appreciate our clubs and members for their support, helping the millions of displaced people find shelter and rebuild their lives and communities. Every refugee is in our hearts and minds.”