On 15 September 2018, CJI’s partner in Syria, Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS), held a closing celebration for its Field Kitchen program. It was held at the Monastery of Franciscan Sisters in Aleppo.
Six years ago and with a very limited resources and staff, Fr Mourad Abou Seif SJ started this project to address one of the central needs of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Syria: access to food. Living in half-destroyed buildings, with practically no fuel for cooking or heating and without a stable electricity supply, displaced families had to face many challenges and one of the most urgent was to feed their children. Raid Habab, an IDP in Aleppo, told JRS, “I lost everything, my home, my shop. We fled from our home without taking anything away. Every time I try to stand, I fall all over again.” (“JRS Activities Syria 2017,” p. 12)
JRS started the Field Kitchen program serving a few hundred hot meals per day. The overwhelming demand and need pushed JRS to increase its capacity, until it was serving over 17,000 meals daily in the different on-site kitchens located in Aleppo and Damascus.
To make this possible, it was crucial to get the support and involvement not only of international development organizations and donors, but also of volunteers. From managing the database of beneficiaries to purchasing the supplies and cooking and distributing the meals, the challenge was embraced by numerous people regardless of their social condition and religion. Raid Habab also became a volunteer of the field kitchen and noted: “JRS stood with me in my hardest times and without it, things would have been much harder and who knows what could have happened to me and to my family without that support.” (“JRS Activities Syria 2017,” p. 12)
Muhannad Majano, kitchen manager and JRS volunteer, declared, “JRS kitchen is a beacon for the many volunteers that work there like myself, but especially for the young boys and girls and the elderly of our teams, who have no degrees, no jobs, no prospects at all. Some are illiterate. We train them, we pay them, we assist them. And we love each other. We are a family. Many of us would have been crushed by the war and the lack of opportunities, if it wouldn’t have been for the JRS kitchen.” (https://www.cordaid.org/en/news/running-emergency-kitchen-aleppo)
The field kitchen in Aleppo is an example of true Christian spirit and solidarity. Fr Mourad stressed that it is not a Christian project for Christians or a Muslim project for Muslims, but a Syrian project for Syria. “Our team of Muslims and Christians and everybody working together is a hope for us. Maybe we are hoping the international community will stop the violence and we will rebuild our country.” (http://www.jesuitmissions.ie/news/383-interview-with-fr-mourad-abou-seif-sj-from-syria)
CJI is proud to be part of this amazing story. Our appeal for the Syria Emergency has allowed us to fund the Field Kitchen and other projects in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and Iraq — to provide emergency assistance, child and adult education, healthcare, social services, and psychological support to refugees and IDPs.
THANK YOU to our donors who helped to support the Field Kitchen
program in Syria! THANK YOU for giving people food and hope!
To learn about another major project of JRS in Syria, visit Family Support in Damascus.
— Report by Mercedes Arango-Vasquez, CJI International Programs Coordinator