The situation in Syria and AVSI Tents Campaign: educating to rebuild

In the country tried by thirteen years of war, amid cholera epidemics and earthquakes, recounting the testimony of those working not to leave children, widows and the elderly alone.

Countries Syria
Date 10.01.2024
Author by Maria Acqua Simi - journalist of Tracce

Hady Kobeissi is a young Lebanese man who now works as AVSI's project manager in Syria. Nationality is not taken for granted. The relationship between the two countries is complicated, and has been since well before the start of the war that has been fought on Syrian soil for over thirteen years. He is Muslim, is married and the father of a six-year-old boy. Hady lives shuttling between Beirut and Damascus. He currently runs a new AVSI office in Latakia, Syria's most important port city on the Mediterranean.

The situation in Syria: the interview to Hady Kobeissi, AVSI's project manager

The Italian journalist Maria Acqua Simi met him in Cremona, on the sidelines of an event for the AVSI Tents Campaign. “Going back will be hard after these days in Italy. Here I can take a hot shower every day, I do not have to worry about charging my mobile phone or the batteries of a generator in the few moments available, nor do I have to think about whether and what I will find on my plate. It is another world in Syria, a world that is paradoxically even worse than when the fighting raged. I do not like to rattle off figures, even though I come across numbers on a daily basis in my work. And the numbers are clear about the situation in Syria. Ocha – the UN Office for Humanitarian Affairs – has estimated that the humanitarian emergency involves 15.3 million people, 6.5 of them children. About 90% of the Syrian population lives below the poverty line. War, inflation, the economic crisis, the earthquake of February 6, and the cholera epidemic make the country totally unstable.” AVSI operates in this complex framework, through interventions in the spheres of education, health and employment.

Particular attention, he says, is paid to orphaned children and women who, widowed by the war, find themselves having to look after their families without help. "One day in Aleppo, I met a beautiful little girl, she must have been about eight years old. She was alone. She told me she was waiting for her mother to go to work with her. I cannot forget her eyes. Because I think of my son, a little younger than her, and I know that at that age one should only think of playing, of going to school, of wandering around. Instead she went to work to keep the family going. So when I think of the title of this year's Tents Campaign (We desire peace. Let’s give it a face, ours), I think of her. Everything we try to do as an in Syria has this aim: to reconstruct man.” I ask him what this means on a personal level in his experience. "It means not complaining if I have to go up to five months without seeing my wife and child in order to work in Syria. It means that at Christmas, when I come home, my child already knows that we will celebrate soberly because for the last two years we have decided to give the best gifts to those less fortunate. A small gesture, which costs effort, but which I know will educate him to look at others with generosity and as much love as possible.”

Hady takes this gaze with him to work, and it becomes AVSI's method in Syria, that is involved in supporting hospitals that are still functioning, in the rehabilitation of school buildings (over the years, five schools around Damascus and four in the rural area outside Aleppo have been renovated). To support children like the girl Hady knows, AVSI also organises various activities to make up for lost years of study and 'Back to Learning' campaigns. Basically, says the young Lebanese man, the staff actively support young people so that they can re-enter the school system, however shaky it may be. "I have seen first-hand that the only real point of reconstruction, for peace to be possible, is education. I do not want to belittle the other projects, because there are so many needs. But education is really the key to peace. The only one possible.”