YOU ARE NOT ALONE: SYRIAN REFUGEES
It is ten years since the beginning of the violence in Syria, which started when major conflict broke out on 15 March 2011, following protests which were part of the wider “Arab Spring”. A recent episode of SAT-7’s program You are Not Alone has reminded viewers that the violence and displacement being experienced by Syrians remains grave and that the most vulnerable continue to suffer the most.
Baby Tayyem was born with a type of hernia that caused him breathing problems and severe pain. By the time his mother spoke to Sirene Semerdjian, Producer and Presenter of You Are Not Alone, two-week-old Tayyem could not eat or sleep, and his skin had started to turn blue. A doctor had advised the newborn needed immediate surgical intervention, but in the refugee camp where they live in Arsal, Lebanon, his parents could not access surgery or afford to travel to a hospital.
As Sirene had a contact in the refugee camp, she heard about Tayyem’s condition. “I couldn’t stop thinking about the baby,” she says. “I looked at my son and thought how I would do anything to cure my baby if even he had a cold. But what could this baby’s parents do? They had no way to leave the camp.”
Sirene immediately made calls to find medical help – and when she described Tayyem’s symptoms to a doctor, she was told he might have only hours to live. “I arranged for the family to come immediately to Beirut for the surgery and waste no time,” she says.
During the five-hour drive from the refugee camp to the hospital, Tayyem’s mother Doaa woke him periodically to make sure he was still alive. “This was a very difficult day for me. I felt it was like a whole year. Time passed so slowly that day,” she says.
Thankfully, the surgery was successful and Tayyem was able to breathe and eat normally. Afterwards, You Are Not Alone travelled to the refugee camp to film with the family, who shared that, heartbreakingly, they had already lost a son in the past.
“We left Syria in 2012 and fled to Lebanon,” says Doaa. “I have five children, and I lost one. To this day I cannot forget him. I am afraid anything might happen to any of my other children. After they come back from school, I don’t let them go out of the tent. We would give our own lives for Tayyem,” she says.
“Syrian refugees can be very isolated. Sometimes there is literally no one to help them,” says Sirene. “God’s hand was at work in all of this. He was guiding us all the way.” She explains that the timing could not have been more crucial, as only days later, hospitals stopped admitting patients due to a healthcare crisis caused by a rise in COVID-19.
“When they contacted us, all we thought about was to save the child. The program stood up to its title, You are Not Alone, showing how God uses us to help one another when in need,” Sirene says.