Monday, March 21, 2016


The day I developed a passion for history was the day when I started learning about World War II in school. I remember it so clearly. My little mind was constantly reeling with questions about how it happened, how nobody did anything. The answer I got is that people were scared to do anything or people didn't know. 
For so many years I wondered about those people who were uneducated or scared and I just wasn't sure how that could be possible. Then, five years ago this month, it happened again. Refugees started flooding out of Syria and all around me I saw people that were too scared and hateful to feel inclined to offer help. I had put such emphasis on studying these types of people during WW2, all my life trying to understand them, and here they were right in front of me and I still couldn't understand them. It made me question my belief that the world is inherently good.
Then I saw this video and I heard about CARE. CARE is a humanitarian organization who is working to fight global poverty. They have a special project going on that, when I think about it, makes my eyes start to fill up. CARE noticed that former WWII refugees were writing to Syrian refugees, offering words of hope and started documenting.
One story that particularly struck me was about a man named Gunter Nitsch. He was a little boy when his family was forced to leave East Prussia during World War II. They made their way, illegally at times, to West Germany. 
Gunter Nitsch saw what was happening in Syria and sat down to write a letter and a special delivery, a CARE package. The letter went to a little boy named Zaher, a Syrian refugee.

"I am 78 years old and live in the United States,” his letter to Zaher began. “Seventy years ago, when I was 8 years old like you, I was also a refugee. I'm writing to share my story with you to let you know that, no matter how bad things may seem, there are good people in this world who can make everything better.” Nitsch goes on to tell his story to Zaher, at the end offering kind words.

A week later, sitting on the floor cushions of a cold, bare room of an apartment in the Jordanian city of Irbid, little Zaher gazes curiously at the 8x10 photo of a grey-haired man smiling back at him. “He reminds me of my grandfather!” Zaher exclaims from inside the apartment where he lives with his parents and five siblings.  

Though he struggles a bit, Zaher insists on reading the letter from the stranger who sent him a box of goodies. He’s struck by Gunter’s story of heartache, of being forced to leave his childhood behind. “I would love,” Zaher says, “to tell him about my life from Syria, that we had a house, trees, a backyard.”
 Zaher happily plays with the toys that Nitsche sent him with the letter, 
Zaher’s father enjoys seeing his son have a rare light moment.  “Living through this war has affected Zaher’s psychological state so much,” he says. ‘He’s quiet and doesn’t engage with people as much. His life is just so different now than it was when we lived in Syria. He doesn’t have many possessions now, like his toys. Things are not available the way we need them to be, and I cannot provide for him like I did when we were in Syria. My hands are tied here. I have nothing to give now.” Zaher’s father said Gunter’s letter had an almost haunting familiarity to it.  “I felt like it was me who was also suffering right with him,” he said. “It was like reading my life.”

Zaher and his father study the picture of Gunter with his dog, Senta. They miss their own pets – some pigeons and the beloved family cat. They had no choice but to leave them behind.

Zaher gets up and begins his usual routine to prepare for school, stuffing his backpack with textbooks. Then he adds his new notebook and pens, the ones sent by a stranger who lives half a world away but whose words are a reminder that maybe, one day, everything will get better.
After seeing this kind of experience, CARE decided to  open up a channel for anyone to be able to encourage these individuals, just like Gunther Nitsche did. 
So what can you do to help Syrian Refugees? 
1. Write a letter of support to a Syrian Refugee child 
They only allow 255 characters, so it is short and sweet. Here is mine...
"My name is Riley ______ and I am a teacher in the United States. I have taught many Syrian Refugees and i'm amazed by them. They are so resilient. Despite their circumstances, they are ready for the next challenge ahead of them. They are brave, they are strong. I wanted to remind you today that you are somebody who matters. You are worth fighting for. Even on days when hope feels impossible, remember that you are and will make a huge difference in the world and that is something worth persevering for. I hope you can feel my love, wherever you are. I think about you often and pray for you even more." 
A letter of hope could mean the world to one of these children who are losing it day by day. 
2. Make a donation. You can donate any amount you would like, or you can donate a $35 hygiene kit, a month of food for $70,  a $114 food voucher or $300 for livestock support. This is all secure and 100% of the proceeds go to these refugees. 
I'm so honored to be asked to be writing about this today. Having students who escaped Syria last year cracked my heart wide open on this issue. I am getting paid per click on this campaign meaning not just viewing the blog but clicking the links and checking out CARE's website, and with that money I am donating back to the CARE cause. #WITHSYRIA
Let's help Syrian Refugees today by donating or sending a special delivery, a CARE package. 
Thank you to CARE for caring. :) 
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