How it feels distributing aid amid the destruction in Aleppo

These are some of the most moving pictures I have seen from our aid distributions in Syria. This week we distributed in an area of Aleppo freed from Jehadists last year. Displaced people returned with nothing, to find nothing to return to. We invited 500 families to this distribution, but closer to 1,500 turned up. Our relief coordinator in Aleppo said it was the toughest distribution they have done. They were exhausted by the end.

But they were also happy. Happy that they could do something to meet these people in their desperation and need, happy to be able to bring a ray of light and hope into the darkness that this multitude of people have lived for so many years, happy to receive the message this aid sends to them; that the outside world has not forgotten them and that we love them and care enough to do something.

Our Director of Relief and Medical projects in Syria, Dr A said

"When I look back over everything we have achieved I feel amazed, and also terrified. I wish I could explain how dangerous it is is for us to distribute this aid in all of these places, to go and be in the middle of all these people, moving with all this valuable aid. But everything we did was not because we can, but because it is what Jesus wants. He wants us to do this and He is our protector. Nothing has been done by our strength, it is done only by His strength. I wish we could tell everyone 'This is what Jesus did for us. We should be very thankful for Him.'"

This work we do is as important for the givers as it is for the receivers. It is just as essential for you and me here in the West to give as it is for those people there in dire need to receive, and this is just as true for our teams working on the ground. They need our generous support to be able to keep giving and they need our prayers and encouragement to keep finding the strength in their hearts to persevere working in these toughest of environments, reaching out to these most vulnerable people.

It is emotionally exhausting to be faced with this level of need and suffering on a daily basis. So many people doing this kind work switch off or tune out over time as a way of protecting themselves. From the many reports we hear, this is what many aid workers in Syria have done. They start to switch off from the people they are helping and it becomes a job, driven by processes, with an "us" and "them". It is hardly surprising as this kind of work is emotionally exhausting. But we really believe that what these people need is unconditional love and acceptance.

There were so many pictures that touched my heart, it was hard to know which ones to show here. When I look at the pictures of these people, I see the suffering written on their faces, I see the burdens carried on the shoulders of these men, women and children. But I also see the great opportunities for you and me to reach out to them in their suffering and do something to make a difference in their lives.

All of our work, both here and in Syria is done by ordinary people like you and me. For us, the most important qualities in people working with us are the ability and willingness to love and serve, to be able see a need and respond to it. Whether we have something physical and tangible to give or not, what we need most is to give our hearts. Without giving that first, it is so much harder to give anything else.

If I was asked to describe Samara's Aid Appeal, I would describe it as an army of souls who have a call on our lives to love and serve our brothers and sisters in need. We are the people who want the light in our hearts to shine brighter than the darkness that exists in this world, and we are the individuals who understand that this is only possible when we let our compassion guide and motivate us enough to step out of our comfort zone and take action to do something to make a difference. We may not be able to change something for everyone, but if we are willing we can certainly change everything for someone.

To find out more about getting involved in our work please visit www.samarasaidappeal.org/collectors

Thanks so much to everyone who is involved in our work in any way.

Love

Samara

Rheumatic fever increasing in Syria as a result of soaring poverty

Rheumatic fever is a condition that is very rare in the West. It is a serious complication resulting from an untreated streptococcal throat infection. If it develops and goes untreated there is a high chance of sustaining damage to the heart.

We have been treating this 14 year old girl for rheumatic fever which did not respond to initial treatment. Our team removed her tonsils last week in Al Hayat* Hospital in Syria and she will need long term antibiotics to protect her from developing further complications and potential damage to her heart.

The last years have been tough for her and her family living in Aleppo through the conflict. She has four sisters and a brother who has severe learning disabilities. They lost their home, and the only things they managed to take with them were their identification papers, no clothes or any other essential things.

After this they had to flee from place to place many more times and eventually ended up sheltering in a garage with some other displaced families. They stayed there for 6 months.

If this was not traumatic enough, these children then lost their father who died tragically leaving her widowed mother struggling to care for six children with no support. It has been a great struggle for this woman to cope with six children, living in such poor conditions.

The news that her daughter needed an operation to treat her illness couldn't have come at a worse time. Our hospital was able to treat this girl free of charge. It is something that we wouldn't even need to worry about here in the U.K., but in Syria nothing is taken for granted. So many illnesses are going untreated now as people can't access or afford the medical care they need.

Since the start of the conflict in Syria there has been a significant increase in cases of rheumatic fever. Before the war it was less common, but our medical teams have treated numerous cases over the last months. It is linked with poverty and poor living conditions which have become life-threatening complications of the conflict in Syria.

It is a privilege for us to be able to support families like this who are struggling to survive, by giving them free medical care and helping with clothing, shoes and hygiene items. This girl and her siblings are among the 7 million children now living in poverty in Syria, and are also among the 1.75 million children who are now out of school because of the conflict.

The unbearable conditions that these and so many other children in Syria are living in pose a great threat to health and ultimately to life. We are doing everything we can with the limited resources available to us to support the most vulnerable people in a variety of ways including providing clothes and shoes, water, food, hygiene items and life-saving medical care.

What can this generation in Syria ultimately look forward to or try to plan for? Peace, education, safety, healthcare, a clean home, food and clothing shouldn't seem like a lot to ask for. Yet for millions of children across Syria, even if they ask they won't get. At least not in the short to medium term. In war there are no winners, just a multitude of losers.

To find out more about our life-saving work please visitwww.samarasaidappeal.org

Back to School in Aleppo

Back to School in Aleppo

While our children are going back to school this Autumn, these children in Syria are going back to school for the first time in years.  The devastating conflict has made it impossible for many children in Aleppo to go to school.  But now these children from displaced families have started programmes to re start their education, and we have been supporting them with clothes.

An old man from Aleppo

It is three years since I started my first appeal to collect life-saving winter aid to support people fleeing ISIS in the Middle East. In this time we have sent 39 lorries of aid to Iraq, 35 containers of aid to Syria, 11ambulances to Syria and a container of aid to Jordan, and we have a couple more to go in the next few weeks. We have two hospitals in Syria which we started from scratch with our expert teams on the ground, and we now have a big vision to build a critical care hospital in Syria providing specialist intensive care services which are so desperately needed now. Thank you from the bottom of my heart to everyone who has helped. I could never ever have imagined when I first started asking friends to donate clothes where this journey would lead me.

Three years ago I was so moved by the plight of ordinary people who had fled their homes in Iraq and Syria. Their neighbours and family members had been killed, kidnapped, girls were taken and sold as slaves, then sexually and physically abused. Many of the acts that people fled from are simply unspeakable. Yet we do need to speak about it as they are still taking place in the Middle East and around the world: the world we are living in. Our world. Our global community. These people are our neighbours. Whatever the colour of their skin or the language that they speak, they are our brothers and sisters. They are our families.

Empires rise and fall, nations are formed and then divided, and rulers and governments come and go. But there is one thing that remains the same through all of these changes: change only happens when someone takes responsibility for making it happen, when someone takes a stand against injustice, and when someone takes on a journey to change something that breaks their heart. That someone could be you.

It is easy to close our eyes when we see suffering. It is easy to turn off the TV if the images are disturbing, and it is easy to scroll past if the message is challenging. But in the words of a wise man, Edward Burke

"The only thing that is needed for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing."

Millions of ordinary people including innocent children are still suffering the consequences of the kind of depravity that violent groups like this have and continue to inflict on people.

In Syria there are many groups carrying out the same atrocities against humanity. They have different names, but they are all different covers of the same book. The devastation they create is the same wherever they go and there are still enormous numbers of innocent people trapped in areas that these groups have taken by force. One of the differences between ISIS and some of the other groups with similar ideologies is their method of achieving their goals, and the way they produce and publicise their propaganda.

There have been so many articles demonstrating how sophisticated ISIS were in producing their propaganda and videos. The aim of their propaganda was clear: they wanted to demonstrate their ability to carry out the most hideous crimes against humanity, in graphic detail, to create fear. They took full responsibility for their acts. The other jehadist groups in Syria who go under different names have the same level of sophistication and ability when it comes to making their propaganda. But one of the big differences is the aim and the nature of their propaganda. Their propaganda aims to deceive, to influence opinions, and to achieve their goals through means that they wouldn't otherwise have the ability or resources to achieve on their own.

When these jehadist groups take areas, most of the people who are able to, flee. Many have no opportunity to pack, they are lucky if they manage to leave with all of their family members. Time and time again, the displaced families I visited in Syria told me how these groups arrived in their neighbourhoods where they had lived all their lives. They began beheading and killing people, forcing others into slavery. They destroyed simply for the sake of destroying, created fear and suffering simply for the sake of trying to take power and control. These fighters forced ordinary families from their homes, killing many of them, so that they could live in their homes instead.

But there were also many people that these jehadist groups did not allow to leave. The simple yet heart breaking fact is that these ordinary people: families, young children and babies, are more useful to them as human shields. The presence of these innocents among their fighters makes it so much harder to remove these jehadist groups from the homes of the Syrian people which were taken unlawfully and by force. This is one of the many, many reasons that we see such long, bloody and devastating battles in Syria. The situation there is so incredibly complicated.

I remember one older man in his seventies that I took aid to while I was in Syria (video below). He was living in an abandoned school with his wife, his son, and 28 other displaced families who had fled Aleppo six years before. He had lived in East Aleppo all his life and had married late. He had a successful business with a number of shops and a small factory making shoes.

Fighters came to their neighbourhood then started killing people. They took his business and assets, and took their homes by force, kidnapping people and taking young girls for their fighters to abuse. They took ordinary people and turned them into slaves for their families. These fighters kidnapped this man, his wife and son and kept them imprisoned in one room for three months. When opposing forces launched a counter attack to free these people, they found an opportunity to escape. His son was just 6 years old at the time.

I was so moved by this ordinary man and his story. He was so open as I asked questions about his life and experiences of the war. Since our meeting, I have wondered so many times how he explained these events to his son, and whether his little boy has nightmares now after such an ordeal. Many of the families I talked with in that school broke down in tears as they recounted their stories.

After we finished talking I asked if it was appropriate for me to hug him, as he is Muslim and in Syrian culture men and women do not hug unless they are family. But I felt so moved by this poor man and his experiences. He told me I was like his daughter as we hugged and he showered my head with kisses.

Later, after we had visited all the displaced families in this abandoned school, he came to me as we were about to get into the car to leave. I will never forget his parting words to me.

"Before the war we were happy. We had everything we needed. Life was good. Now everything is bad and we have nothing."

He said.

"I like you, and I think the people in the UK are good people. But will you please, tell your people to stop supporting the terrorists?"

These were such hard-hitting words to hear from an old man who has lost everything. Seeing the reality of his life and his situation, and even worse knowing that many Syrian people believe that our Western governments are responsible for a significant amount of the suffering they are going through. This was a truly humbling encounter and it was hard to find an appropriate response. Sadly, this old man's story is one of so many with huge similarities in Syria.

These human shields are also tragically and horrifically abused in the making of sickening propaganda videos that these groups and their supporters produce to provoke pressure on their opposition. These groups have no respect for human life at all, at any level. The old and the young are all useful and their lives are disposable in their eyes.

It is so hard to acknowledge and accept that we are living in parallel worlds, that exist in the same world. While we are living in comfort, freedom, safety, and security, children in Syria can be abused, with the specific purpose of provoking an emotional response that will put pressure on their opposition.

The Syrian people have been living with this reality for years and are still living with it. What they have become accustomed to seeing with their own eyes, taking place around them is different from what we are presented with through images and videos in our media. Our mainstream media are either scarily unaware of the nature of what they receive and produce in relation to the Syrian conflict, or complicit in giving a platform to the propaganda campaigns of groups which are a far cry from the so called freedom fighters that we have been told about so many times. Both are so dangerous with a significant cost to human life.

The one message from our mainstream media that I agree with about Syria is that the people are suffering. Senselessly, and unnecessarily. There is no justifiable reason or excuse for this prolonged and intense suffering. None at all.

This man is one of the 6.3 million internally displaced people inside Syria. He is a refugee in his own country with no home or life to return to, and he is one of the many, many people in desperate need of support. We distributed winter clothes to all of the displaced families living in this abandoned school earlier this year, just before it snowed there. They had little or no ability to heat their rooms, and they had had a hepatitis A

outbreak resulting from lack of sanitation and clean water. When our team went to distribute, there were rats running across the floor.

We plan to help many more families like this in the Middle East this winter, but to do so we need your help. Our appeals work through ordinary people like you and me, collecting aid in our communities. Clothes make a great start, but we also ask people to collect other essential items. However, we have very specific processes that we ask all our collectors to adhere to, so please request an information pack and ensure that you have registered with us first. All the details of how to do this are in our information pack which you can request here www.samarasaidappeal.org/collectors

We also need people to help us raise funds for the new critical care hospital we are building in Syria. This is a huge project and we need as much support as we can find. www.samarasaidappeal.org/jerusalem-hospital

If you have collected for us before, you will need to read our new information pack and register again as our processes have changed to ensure that we are serving these people to the best of our ability and means.

Thanks so much to everyone who has helped so far to make this work what it is. It is only you that makes it possible.

Love

Samara

A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step....

A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step....

I’m not perfect. Far from it. I’m not a perfect mother or wife. Nor am I a perfect daughter, sister or friend. Every day I make mistakes. I am full of shortcomings and, no matter how hard I try, I fail to be what I want and hope to be. Maybe I say the wrong thing, or forget to do the right thing. Perhaps I overlook something important or maybe fear or impatience get in the way of making the right decisions. I have this frustrating condition: I am a human being.

Christmas for IDP's fleeing Mosul in Iraq

CHRISTMAS for the IDP's fleeing Mosul in Iraq. On 23rd December our team on the ground distributed some of our aid to Christians and Muslims who have recently fled the fighting in Mosul as the army battle against ISIS to retake this city. Our aid was distributed in a poor Armenian Christian village in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq where many poor families have taken in these displaced families to live with their own.

These host families were already poor, but instead of turning their brothers and sisters away in their time of need, they have taken them into their own homes to live with their families. They are sharing the little they have with their neighbours and trusting that God will provide for all of them. This is the true meaning of Christmas, and of being a Christian.

As the fight against ISIS continues, our team on the ground report that ISIS have been sending suicide bombers with the displaced families who are fleeing. One of the most shocking attacks they reported recently was of a seven-year-old girl who had been sent by ISIS with explosives strapped to her. Please continue to pray for the people who would abuse and take the life of a small child in this way as well as the millions of lives affected by their actions.

If you look closely at the picture, you can see that some of these children are still wearing sandals with no socks. It is cold now in this area which is higher altitude than others parts of Iraq.

Happy Christmas and thank you so much to everyone who has contributed in any way to our work. Your love, compassion and gifts are making a difference.

Love

Samara

Care packs for people in need

“Are there really still people like this in the world?” These were the words of the official inspecting our container when it arrived in Syria. He had just opened one of these care packs and seen a box filled with beautiful gifts for women in need of humanitarian help in Syria. He was moved when he saw the faces of the family in the photo with our printed message of love and encouragement that we ask our supporters to put in these care packs when they fill them.

Society has broken down so much in Syria now. People have lost their trust in humanity. These relatively small acts of kindness from us here in the UK can move hearts and minds on the other side of the world, in a country ravaged by death, destruction and violence.

The only thing stronger than hate is love.

So many people have been moved by the crisis in Syria and St Stephen’s Church in Twickenham responded by collecting hundreds of care packs for pregnant and post-natal women, babies, families and women who have escaped ISIS. Reaching out first to their own congregation, then into their schools, neighbourhoods and community as a whole, they have filled hundreds of boxes with essential new relief items to show our brothers and sisters that they have not been forgotten, that they are loved and that we care enough to do something practical to help them in their suffering.

They collected empty banana boxes and distributed these, together with our shopping lists (see www.samarasaidappeal.org/care-packs to families, schools, football clubs and groups within their communities, asking people to buy the items on the list and fill these boxes.

Doing something to make a difference is so easy. Whether you fill one box or 100, every single box makes a difference for someone. We don’t have to watch in horror, we can all do something to make a difference. Every ocean is made up of many drops. To find out how to contribute your drop, please request an information pack www.samarasaidappeal.org/collectors

Please share this post and be the light that shines in the darkness.

Love

Samara

Snow in Syria this week

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These pictures were taken in Syria today and on Sunday by our teams on the ground. They have had snow this week. These families fled their homes last week when ISIS took the area where they were living. There are 26 families (148 people) sheltering in this abandoned school with no windows and no heating. One of our doctors went to assess the families trying to shelter here to see what help we can provide. There are more than 100 children and two elderly people over 80.

Many of these displaced people have significant medical conditions which will be exacerbated by these harsh living conditions in damp and sub-zero temperatures including asthma, diabetes and hypertension. One father is recovering from cardiac surgery, there is a pregnant woman about to give birth and also a three year old child with physical and learning disabilities who can only drink milk because of a risk of aspirating solid food. Temperatures have been so cold, you can see the children playing on the ice outside the school building.

When our team went to asses the needs of these families, the young children went running up to them. They were friendly and smiling, with no concept of the dangers they left behind or even why they have left their homes. They have only one bathroom to serve 148 people.

These families are in urgent need and we hope to help them with food, clothing, bedding and carpet as well as with windows and medical care.

To find out how you can help please request an information pack www.samarasaidappeal.org/collectors

Opening hospitals in the toughest parts of Syria

Yesterday Dr A and a small team returned safely to their homes in Syria after spending two days travelling around one of the most dangerous areas where we plan to open a new hospital. When I asked him to tell me what he had seen there he described a level of destruction that is hard to comprehend. He told me

This picture shows our team at Emmanuel Hospital recently carrying out abdominal surgery in our mobile operating room.

This picture shows our team at Emmanuel Hospital recently carrying out abdominal surgery in our mobile operating room.

"Everything has been destroyed. There was no life, even in the eyes of the people. It was worse than I thought it would be. It is chaos.

"Our team of doctors and nurses there need more support. They are exhausted.

"The building we had hoped to use for our new hospital was too badly damaged and it would be very hard to work from there. We need to pray for something better."

We made a decision to open a hospital in this challenging part of Syria a few weeks ago as the hospitals in this area were destroyed leaving thousands of civilians with no access to emergency medical care. Yet the need for urgent medical provision there is very immediate and essential.

We have been supporting a small team of doctors and nurses who have been working in this general area for some time, in incredibly difficult conditions. Over the last few weeks our team on the ground has been working hard planning a new hospital which will be better equipped to serve more people in this tough area.

There are a number of huge challenges to opening a hospital in a place like this. Safety is the first challenge, yet our courageous team of doctors and nurses are willing to risk their own lives to save the lives of others.

One of the other difficulties is the lack of water and electricity which are essential to running a hospital. Our team on the ground are experienced in running emergency hospitals in such circumstances and we will bring in tanks of water and generators.

One of the other great challenges of running hospitals in Syria right now is the difficulty in accessing fuel. Fuel is very expensive and hard to source in Syria and it is often contaminated which causes problems with the machinery. This fuel is essential for the generators and ambulances but we also need to provide heating in the hospitals for both the patients and the staff. At night, temperatures are dropping as low as -5 degrees and it is very hard for them to work in this kind of cold without adequate heating. As fuel is so precious we try to save it and use other solid fuels for heating our medical facilities.

Our team are currently searching for an appropriate building to use for this new hospital and we are buying and relocating the equipment we need to open and run this hospital ASAP. We hope to be open in the next couple of weeks.

Our disaster management response to losing three medical facilities in Syria

Yesterday Dr A lost another medical facility that was providing essential medical care in Syria when this area was also taken by ISIS. In two days, three essential medical facilities have been lost. One hospital and two slightly smaller medical facilities. As ISIS is being forced out of Iraq, they are regrouping and renewing their forces in Syria. Although our hospital, Emmanuel, was at least an hour and a half from Meljar Hospital, the volume of patients they have been seeing since the area of Meljar and the other medical facility in the desert were taken by ISIS has nearly doubled. They are a small team of mostly volunteer doctors and nurses from their community and the building is also small now for the number of patients they are seeing.

We have put a new disaster management plan in place to provide the essential medical treatment that the Syrian people need in this conflict and we are planning on establishing another emergency hospital in the general vicinity of Emmanuel Hospital.

Our experienced team of doctors and nurses who have had to evacuate Meljar will staff this hospital for now until we have a clearer picture of whether we will be able to return in the short or longer term.

We are also working to open another emergency hospital in an area where Syria has seen devastating fighting and destruction and where there is no civilian medical provision in a location where the needs are enormous.

We have a truly amazing team of committed and courageous Syrian doctors and nurses on the ground who are willing to work in places and conditions that most of their fellow medics wouldn't. They know it could cost them their lives, yet they are willing to serve and risk their own lives to save others. They are encouraged and directed by our inspirational lead doctor in Syria who we call Dr A, who stands by them and does everything in his power to support them and protect them through these turbulent times.

These doctors and nurses are true heros and it is our privilege to work with them and to support them in every way we can in providing life-saving care to the vulnerable people in Syria where 3/4 of the population are living in poverty now.

We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.

Whatever happens, we will count our blessings which are many. We will keep positive and focused on our mission to bring provision and hope to the poor, to be a voice to the voiceless and to forgive, love and pray for our enemies.

Thanks so much for your love, your prayers and your support over the last few days, months and years.

Love

Samara

Area of Meljar hospital taken

Today ISIS have taken the area where Meljar Hospital is. We are so grateful that our medical team managed to leave, just in time. If they had delayed, they would certainly be killed by ISIS. There is hope that this area will be taken back again but there is much uncertainty. Our prayer is that Meljar Hospital will be hidden from their eyes, that they won't see it among all the other buildings as there is no one in it. We are praying that it will be kept safe and protected until ISIS are gone from this area.

The doctor and nurse who volunteered to go back to the desert medical point arrived back there just before ISIS took that area too. We lost contact with them and spent much of the afternoon in anxious prayer for them abs their protection. Eventually we made contact with them.

After they arrived they felt it was too dangerous there, so they left. On the road they couldn't see other people travelling. This scared them and they realised that ISIS had taken the road too. They left the road and went up into the mountains to hide until nightfall before travelling again. They have reached another medical point where they are safe for now.

Because ISIS have taken another very important strategic area in Syria, the implications of this are devastating for the people of Syria. They predict that they will lose a further 30% of their fuel and electricity, when it was already in critically short supply, especially during these winter months when so many people are suffering with the cold. The people who will suffer the most are the poorest people. Please pray for them.

We have a team in Syria working on some sustainable energy solutions which use materials that are free and available to produce energy, but these take time and have complications. We are praying that some of these can be used in the future.

Thank you for your love, prayers and support.

Love

Samara

Two medical facilities evacuated in Syria

Yesterday we had to evacuate two medical facilities in Syria because ISIS attacked these areas. The team from our Hospital which we call Meljar, and also the team from another medical facility in the desert run by Dr A were evacuated as an emergency response to the situation.

Each of these evacuations was surrounded by its own set of events that amazed us in how they came together. The first you can read about in my earlier post from yesterday. The second attack came as a shock in its intensity.

We had reports the day before of some of the heaviest attacks in many months but the situation seemed to have been made more stable. Then yesterday the heavy attacks came again and we heard news that ISIS could take the area within hours. Dr A started preparing this team to evacuate. Some of them wanted to leave, others want to stay and care for the wounded. Dr A agreed. How do you force someone to leave the wounded behind in such an an environment?

I am away with my family at the moment and after hearing this news I felt such a burden to pray for them. I've been praying for the teams constantly for more than 24 hours but I felt as though something overtook my heart and mind and I just couldn't think about anything other than getting on my knees to pray. I couldn't go to lunch with my family, I felt such a desperate need to withdraw and just pray. I left them going to lunch and went back to our room. I felt so unsettled and was praying so intensely. I asked God to give me me a passage for Dr A to direct him, the opened the Bible completely at random.

The passage before my eyes was 2 Kings 25:8-21. It was talking about the Babylonian invasion of Jerusalem. Of how the temple was burned down and how everything was destroyed by the Babylonians and the people of God were taken and put to death.

I felt this was a message from God that the team should leave straight away. I messaged Dr A immediately with this passage telling him my interpretation of it. That the Babylonians represented ISIS: all things evil in God's eyes. That Jerusalem represented the city that ISIS were trying to take, that the temple represented our hospital. I told him I felt the team had to leave as quickly as possible.

He acted immediately and spoke to them straight away. Within minutes the whole team were on the road with the patients, including the staff who originally planned to stay.

If the situation improves they can return. If not, then then there would be no second chances to leave if ISIS took the area.

We were praying for them so intensely, knowing how dangerous the road was. Neither of us could do anything other than pray. We exchanged a few messages about what we were praying. We were praying the same things: worshipping and giving glory to the name of Jesus. Praising God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

The first part of the road was very dangerous with ISIS snipers killing people who tried to pass. There were many kilometres under these snipers. It was dark and the team were driving in three vehicles: a van and two cars, with their lights switched off. It was a cloudy night and was very dark as they drove through the desert where there was no extra light. We were praying that they would be kept out of the vision of the jehadists who were killing people and that God would guide them. They could see other people being killed and cars destroyed as they drove along this road.

As the drove, some of the team were crying. It was a terrifying experience for them, and painful for them to abandon this hospital that they have worked so hard to build up and develop. They have put so much love and energy into making Meljar a hospital that they could feel proud of.

Less than half an hour after our team passed along this most dangerous part of the road, it was blocked off completely by ISIS. No one else could pass. If they had delayed leaving, they would not have been able to pass at all.

About two hours after I felt this heavy weight to pray, I felt like a weight had been lifted from me. I suddenly felt as though this intense need to pray had passed. I can't really explain it but it I could not focus on anything other than praying and listening to God for about two hours. In that time I prayed, read passages from the Bible, sent prayers and passages from the bible to Dr A and sought God's protection and guidance for the team and for Dr A.

My mood changed very suddenly and felt as though though a cloud or burden had suddenly been lifted from my shoulders. I felt as though I could think about other things again.

I sent Dr A a message asking if it was appropriate to talk. He said yes. Then he messaged again to say that the team had passed through the dangerous area and were finally somewhere safe. When we spoke he said that he too suddenly felt that he could do concentrate on other things.

When they arrived at another of our hospitals they told Dr A that they had told him they had no idea how they managed to get there. The road was too dark and people were being killed on the way.

To us, these two evacuations that happened yesterday were miracles guided by God. We are still completely amazed at the way things turned out. It is so tough that the teams have had to leave Meljar hospital behind and also the other medical facility, both of which were providing essential and life-saving free services to the poor. But the most precious things have been saved: the team and the patients who were there when they left.

Today, the people around the medical facility in the desert have begged Dr A to send the medical team back. They are in a desperate situation with no medical provision at all for the wounded. He told them that he could not ask them to return. But one doctor and one nurse have said they are ready to go back. Please pray for their protection and safety as they return.

Please also pray that Meljar Hospital itself will be protected. We are still hopeful that the team will be able to return. Please pray that the equipment and building will be protected and that our team will be able to return safely very soon.

Love

Samara

Medical point evacuated in Syria

Amazing news! The medical team from the desert are safe for now. We can't describe it as anything other than a miracle. The situation seemed so impossible yet both the team, the patients and the most precious pieces of medical equipment they were using at this medical point have been evacuated.

There was a team of skilled workers employed by a commercial company in this area who were due to evacuate yesterday. By some miracle they were delayed until today. Dr A managed to connect with them through some of his contacts and they were willing to risk themselves further to go in their 4x4's and pick up trucks. They managed to take all of the staff and patients to a place of safety.

They had to take a different route across the desert as the main road was unsafe. It would have been almost impossible to do this in any other vehicles, but it all worked out in such an amazing way. We are so grateful and feeling a great mix of emotions. Most of all we are thankful but it is hard knowing what they are leaving behind. The people left behind have no medical provision in the middle of so much death and destruction.

If the team attacking this area are pushed back, the medical team will try to return but no one knows what to expect.

The medics are going to try to provide some level of support from another area, but the situation is so awful for the people left behind and also those who are fleeing. Please keep praying for protection, provision and most of all peace for these people.

We are so grateful for all of your heartfelt prayers.

Thank you Jesus for rescuing these faithful doctors and nurses and support staff who risk their own lives to save the lives of others.

Love

Samara

Prayers needed for our medical teams in Syria

Please can we ask for your prayers? The last 30 hours has been critical for one of Dr A's medical teams that we support in a desert area in Syria. Although there has been a lot of fighting around this area for a long time, the last 30 hours have seen some of the worst attacks and a powerful jehadist group have taken some other key areas very close by. They have dealt with 14 deaths and more than 200 wounded at this medical point, many in critical condition, and they are just a tiny team. There are also a lot of people missing now, potentially dead or kidnapped and there is no way of knowing what has happened to them.

There have also been some of the worst attacks in months to the area of Meljar Hospital but this seems to be under control at the moment.

Last night Dr A asked the team to evacuate the medical point in the desert but the team refused to leave. It is a medical facility that is somewhere between a clinic and a small hospital. The doctor in charge there said they have many wounded patients that they are unable to evacuate, but if they leave them there they will probably die.

When Dr A was talking to the doctor in charge of this medical point last night, the doctor said they have been hearing a lot of loud explosions. There were some people in this area fighting this terrorist group, but at the moment they seem to be running away. They are the people who are supposed to be protecting this area.

The people living in the surrounding area have packed up their most precious and essential possessions in case they have to run at a moments notice. The team at the medical point have packed up the most precious equipment.

The doctor in charge has seen a lot of battles and said he is not afraid. But the other doctor and nurses are scared.

Dr A is asking us all to pray for their protection as they are in the frontline now. He said

"I hate the night. They [jehadist group] always use the cover of night for their attacks. I'm afraid of the night."

Around four hours ago they reported that the fighting had stopped but that this group were moving in their direction.

Some of the civilians from neighboring areas have arrived in this area and are trying to protect them as there is no one else to protect this area now. They are trying to separate the area where this jehadist group are and the area where this medical point is. That group is much more powerful, better armed and equipped than these civilians are.

The medical point has run out of most of the supplies they need but it is really hard to get anything to them now as people are afraid to travel to this area.

The sub zero temperatures in the area are making everything much harder as it is a struggle for them to keep warm in the medical point and generally in the area. The only fuel they can rely on is wood fuel right now. Again, they are running out as it is so hard to access them safely. Additionally they are in the desert which can get very cold, especially at night. No one wants to travel there even to take supplies.

Please can we ask you to pray for this team as often as you can and to ask your faithful friends to pray too.

This is a true battle and we can only fight it on our knees. Please can I ask you to join together with us in prayer for the protection of this team as often as you can. I will be praying for them continuously throughout the day and night, but I will make a special effort to pray for them at 10am and 10pm daily until we have news that the situation is under control. Even if you join us just for a couple of minutes with your heartfelt prayers it will make a difference.

Matthew 18:20 “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”

Please pray for these things for the team, and also the people trying to survive in this area:

Protection
Provision
Encouragement
Peace

Thanks so much.

Love

Samara

Emergency medical care to anyone in need

Have you been affected by what you have seen in Syria over the last week, months or even years?

This dear little girl was playing in the rubble left behind by repeated explosions and was injured in the remnants of this destruction. She is from a very poor family and was treated at our hospital, Meljar*, last week.

Every day innocent children and adults are killed and injured in Syria in this war. All they are doing is trying to survive, to earn a living to put bread on the table for their families, to live and to sleep in their homes, and little children need somewhere to play. But this is Syria, and people don't have have the luxury of safety in their day to day lives.

One of the most heart breaking aspects of this crisis is the lack of emergency medical care when these people are injured. July saw a record number of attacks on healthcare facilities in Syria with 43 attacks in that month alone (Syrian American Medical Society). When people are injured, where do they go and who do they ask for help in a place where only one in three hospitals is functional and even these are under resourced? Yet the need for emergency medical care is greatest now because of the relentless conflict which shows no signs of ending soon.

We are providing emergency medical care to anyone in need regardless of who they are, where they are from, no matter what their faith or political views are. Now that ¾ of the people in Syria are living in poverty the free care that we are providing is essential, and is saving many lives that would otherwise be lost in areas where there is no other hope.

Often, the photos that are most important for us to show you are the hardest to capture in an emergency situation, and then also to publicise as they show another human being’s distress and darkest moments. How do we begin to ask for permission to take photos like these in the middle of an emergency, and then to show them if the injuries are severely debilitating or life-threatening, especially if it involves someone’s baby, child, mother, brother or elderly grandfather? At times like this these people and their families are consumed by anger and grief and we want to put their dignity first.

The life-saving work we are doing in Syria only happens at all because people like you make it happen. Every one of you who supports our hospitals with standing orders each month, every one of you who organises an event, fundraises through your church, school, workplace or in your community is helping to save lives. Literally save lives. I am so grateful for all of the love, energy and time that you give to this work because without you it wouldn’t be possible.

If you have been touched be the events in Syria and would like to do something to help these people who are relying on outside help just to survive, please consider taking a look at our fundraising page. www.samarasaidappeal.org/fundraise We are still a long way off from reaching our target for Meljar Hospital.

We need £20,000 in regular monthly standing orders to provide the service that is desperately needed there. Currently we have around £5,500 in monthly standing orders for this hospital but we are spending just over £10,500 and are only able to provide an emergency service with this money. Our hospital is saving many, many lives in this area where there are no other hospitals for a couple of hours drive across rough and dangerous roads. But we are only providing an emergency life-saving service. We are having to treat and discharge patients who should be admitted for further care to stablise their conditions. These are people we wouldn’t dream of discharging in the UK. It is really heart-breaking to hear about the services that are being restricted in our hospital simply because we don’t have the money to cover costs. These people don’t have any other options except our hospital.

If you would like me to come to speak at your church or event about our work I still have some availability for a couple of Sundays in September and October. If you are within a couple of hours drive of Brighton I can usually organise this without too much trouble, if you are further afield it might take a little more planning. As I have two young children and already commit such a large amount of my time to this work I have to try to balance the distance travelled against the amount of time allotted to speak and the size of the audience against the time it takes away from my family. If there is a distance to travel I also ask whether the hosts could help with petrol costs as I don’t spend the money we raise on my expenses. Please feel free to contact me at samara@samarasaidappeal.org

When we see awful pictures, and hear heart breaking stories about what is happening in the world we all feel outraged and that sense of terrible injustice. These feelings are our call to action as the situation only changes when we take a stand against these unacceptable things. We may not be able to do everything, but we can certainly do something. When your something and my something, and lots of other people's something is added together, we can do a lot and it changes lives, saves lives and brings hope to these people who are feeling abandoned by the rest of the world.

Love

Samara

* We change the names of our hospitals to protect their locations and keep our teams and facilities safe in a place where hospitals are actively targeted.

Care packs for displaced women

Care packs were distributed last week in a camp for internally displaced women in Iraq.

They are sheltering in this camp in the Sapna area of Dohuk. The care packs given out were put together by churches, families, schools and individuals in the UK for pregnant and post-natal women, women with babies and families in need of humanitarian assistance. We also distributed women's hygiene products to the displaced women in this area. This distribution served 850 Christian, Muslim and Yazidi women who fled from the Baasheeqa area.

To find out how you, your church, school or workplace can put together care packs like this for displaced people in the Middle East in need of humanitarian help please visit www.samarasaidappeal.org/care-packs

What choices for Syrian children?

While the crisis continues, the people left behind in Syria are in desperate need of humanitarian help.

There are 11.5 million people in need of urgent healthcare provision in Syria. As approximately 200 hospitals have been destroyed, only around 1 in 3 hospitals are functional. Who does that leave to provide emergency medical care for children like the little boy we have seen on the news today?

Without help from outside, children like these will die, and be orphaned in circumstances that could have and would have been different If they had access to emergency medical care.

Let's not simply blame governments for the problems, but do something positive in our own communities, among our friends, in our churches, schools and workplaces.

Let's be the opportunity, not the obstacle for these people.

If our children and families have the chance to grow up in relative safety and have free healthcare when they are sick, please consider what happens to those living in Syria without these basic human rights.

There are practical ways to help. Find out more by requesting an information pack www.samarasaidappeal.org/collectors