So much was accomplished and endured this day to the point where I hardly had a second to realize I was leaving later that night.

Our day began earlier than usual as we had to be at the football stadium for around 9am, and headed to the warehouse to load the final 1500 boxes we’d be distributing. Driving into the lot you’d think it was market day what with cars and pick-up trucks lined on the roads, bikes and wheelbarrows sprawled on the side ready to collect their goods for the day.

Upon entering the stadium (I use the term stadium lightly; an indoor pitch really, so a small stadium?), I felt this massive hot heavy feeling on my heart which made it stop for a second and it wasn’t the crying type of of hotness but just this sudden pang of something. An overwhelming-ness maybe, or my entire being in a state of ‘wow’, but essentially a scene which stops you dead in your tracks to take it all in.

People were lined all around the pitch, men on the right, women and children on the left, waiting for us. Once we were sorted, a system was established where half of us would be told how many boxes each person was to receive, we’d walk them out of the stadium, let someone on the truck know, he’d pass the boxes to the second group, we’d pass the person onto the box-bearer who’d then carry the load to either a parked car or taxi or to the end of the road where some waited in the blistering heat for a ride to come collect them. Many of the men were physically able to carry their own, but many women had come with strollers and children and just had too much to handle on top of finding armspace to carry this heavy box someplace.

 

Extra hands were required and I guess it’s one of those moments where you don’t know what you’re truly capable of until you’re placed in a certain situation. Wallahi I tried to lift those boxes before for more than 10 seconds and I know the limitations of my own strength which is pretty much non-existent, but there was also no way I was going to watch another woman struggle with this load and her crying baby, so I had a go at it. Honestly the worst that happened is me being super sore the next day and receiving hugs and kisses and prayers, which is a freaking no brainer and I’m a tad proud of pushing myself beyond what I thought I couldn’t do.

Word had got round that we were in the area which resulted in so many unregistered people trying to make their way inside and pleading with each of us for a box or some food, showing us ID that they too were Syrians and just as eligible I suppose, but unfortunately there was really nothing we could do for them. They were definitely directed to the SKT Turkey team who gave them more information on how to go about registering etc. but saying no in that moment and having to leave people empty handed who are just as much in need is kind of a shitty feeling. Which isn’t anyone’s fault at all but just ugh.

It was a super special moment though, watching it all unfold before your eyes whilst physically being a part of it all and seeing your work and intentions from day one materialize into the final product, the culmination of it all and you couldn’t help but feel your heart expand with an overwhelming amount of joy and love and satisfaction in that you helped make this happen x

Once we were finished, a football match had been organized between SKT volunteers, both local and overseas, against the local SKT sponsored teams who are coached by the goalkeeper of Syria’s national football team. Fam. Those boys annihilated us. Mashallah mashallah mashallah. We played against both teams, the younger and older boys, and lost both terribly haha but they were all so amazing and talented!

The remainder of our evening was meant to be spent at the SOH where the kiddies had put on a show for us and we got to have dinner together which was super special x prior to that had a quick stroll through one of the markets and creeped on some people as per usual lol

I don’t think I want to get into all the feels of those final hours and moments spent with the kiddies and sneaking upstairs to learn Syrian dabke with the mums and listening to their stories because I’d rather they remain etched in my heart and soul for the time being x but there were lots of tears and hugs and kisses and a blanket of sadness in the air for all of us xx

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I’m sure I’ll get round to a post-deployment posting once all of this has been mentally and emotionally processed and I’m able to wrap my head around it all. Also want to do a portrait series of all the beautiful faces I captured so keep a look out for that. The post on how to go about volunteering with SKT is also in the works, alongside a special debut posting by the real Qes Ahmed himself haha so yea definitely stay tuned inshallah!

I want to thank and hug each and every one of you who’ve followed this deployment with me and have been keeping up-to-date with my blogs and other social media platforms. All the prayers and love and well wishes you sent were sent back your way ten-fold and it makes me so happy that so many of you are interested and wanting to make a difference to help and care about raising awareness about the plight of others for the sake of humanity x A massive thank you and hug to Qes and SKT Welfare for inviting me to join their cause and this deployment and allowing me to showcase the wonderful things they do on the grounds in Reyhanli for the Syrian refugees, and inshallah I hope to head back with them in the future! All of this truly came about after I creeped on Hasnain’s (@torynainz) instagram and then Qes’s (@qes321) whilst they were on deployment last Eid and fell in love with all the goodness they were doing lol definitely didn’t think it would result in my being invited to join so thanks a million and one you two! Xxx

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If you have any comments or questions at all etc. please please feel free to send myself a message or even SKT themselves as either of us would be more than happy to help answer or get you the information you need!

As always, lots of love, light, and endless happiness sent your way inshallah x ma salama xoxo

If you’re ever on any type of deployment or volunteer gig which includes people, human beings, and you’re told not to interact with those people because that’s not what you’re here for, do.not.listen.

You might be someplace to help with infrastructure, deliver medical aid, or work on a conservation project etc., but not hugging or speaking to even one local person is a missed opportunity at creating human connection. How else are you to fathom what someone’s gone through, or what they are in need of? For us to simply enter unknown territory and deliver boxes of food because we want to ‘help’, but don’t want to even attempt to understand how those we’re here to help have come to such a point in their lives to require said ‘help’ is a shittier form of colonialism in my opinion.

To presume that ones physical presence as a result of where you come from (‘First World’) is more than enough and that that alone should speak volumes unto an oppressed or already victimized peoples is probably the massivest load of bollocks I could ever think of. You are present as a result of your privilege. As a result of chance and circumstance. Nothing more, nothing less. As humans its in our nature to feel things, sadness, hurt, anger, love, regardless of where you come from, and that’s the beauty of having a heart isn’t it? Allowing it to feel and permeate into the depths of each others souls without using words. Our hearts speak the same language but more importantly our souls share the same voice x

We visited a few villages today where people who’ve already registered with SKT come to pick up their boxes. Each person is notified beforehand be it via text or word of mouth about the upcoming drop-off where they must bring/show a form of ID alongside an SKT registration card. It’s overwhelming seeing mothers with baby in hand, toddler waddling close behind and trying to balance this pretty heavy box on her head as though it’s no big deal, but you know she hasn’t got a choice because that box literally contains her bread and butter until the next drop-off (fyi some of us did carry them all the way home to help because duh.)

Also saw a different side to the cute ickle kids which I think was a bit of a shock to some of the others lol kids are kids no matter where in the world and will forever go mad over sweets. Even more so when they’re from a foreign land and it ended up being super mob-like with a few tears and lots of pushings etc. but I’d like to think everyone at least got something x

Evening ended with visits to local families who suffer from various illnesses or disabilities as a result of the war whom SKT also provide assistance too. One of the men we met was paralyzed from the waist down and suffers from cancer; his 17-year-old son has had to drop out of school in order to tend to his father. Another family had 4 children between the ages of 24 and 30 more or less in a vegetable state literally sprawled across the room unable to walk, speak, eat on their own, absolutely nothing and completely dependent upon their parents for survival. That was hard to see, and again how does one even attempt to console or see the good in that situation. Of course you well up but what good are my tears. You can’t help but be in awe of and make silent dua for the immense patience instilled in mothers and fathers to both accept an expected fate, and do the best they can within their means for the sake of that love for ones family and children.

One more day left and I’m trying not to think about leaving. I’m taking it all in, every second, every persons face I kiss, every embrace and cuddle, and I don’t want to forget. I don’t want to go back and simply define all of this as an ‘experience’ because it’s so much more than that x

 

Today was one of those days that will forever be engrained in my mind. The day I was literally so close yet so far away from Syria, probably the closest I’ll ever get to it in my entire life, and the day I was confronted with physical displacement as a result of the war.

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We visited a few more schools today to deliver food packages and were able to sit in on classes and interact with the children. For those of you who might be new here, I’m a primary school teacher and so the classroom is one of my many homes. You’re probably aware of me feeling some kind of way about children, and the feeling is pretty mutual when it comes to education.

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What I found myself reflecting upon had nothing to do with my current location or the refugee children, but rather the obnoxious privilege so many in the ‘first world’ entertain when it comes to education. Specifically this whole ‘back-to-school’ thing where hundreds of dollars are spent on paper and books and stationary and matching bags with light up shoes and new clothes and the list is really freaking endless! I’m discovering that I’ve got an issue with the term ‘privilege’ and how it is both defined and acted upon by different people.

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The organization also assists with a Quranic school so that students can continue their religious education as they did in Syria. Students from the Springs of Hope center attend at different times and we managed to catch some boys who were super eager to showcase their recitation skills.

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I was able to talk myself into a few homes (for hugs and pictures of course), and managed to secure a ‘flayflay’ (red chili) and a branch from an olive tree. The warmth and kindness of the Syrian people exudes this genuine heartfelt goodness and kindness which is so beautiful. They want to talk to you and with you and hold your hand and perhaps just turn the world off for a mere 5 minutes to engross themselves with a ‘too-reest’. And I want to sit and have tea with each and everyone one of them, and hear their stories, and give my undivided attention solely to them as though no one else in the world matters at all, and I promise I try my bestest to do so but its impossible to do so.

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I’ve begun to consistently wander off, within reason of course, when we arrive at a new place because I want to physically reach out to as many people as possible and make the most of me being here. And I may look a bit craycray hugging and kissing all these children but their presence alone is a massive blessing, a symbol of survival and hope for a better future. Hope is a finicky entity because it either makes or breaks a person. It has the potential to uplift and grant its holder blind faith that something better is coming, that everything terrible up until this point is in preparation for goodness, but you’ve got to be headstrong and ensure that that faith never wavers. Which is unbelievably difficult when you’re surrounded by people who have faith yet have been waiting ages for its results to pan out. When the next person is in just a dire situation as I am, if not worse, yet I’m still meant to remain steadfast in hope for a light at the end of the tunnel. The tunnel which appears to never end. I don’t get it.

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I don’t think any of us were prepared, mentally and emotionally, for our visit to the refugee camps. I envisioned tents, organized systematic rows of sandy-beige tents with enough space to house a family of 5-6.

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A compound. A freaking compound consisting of a few concrete slab shacks fitted with a roof of tarp. No set of flats or 21st century living structures, just tarp, wood, and concrete. Remember when you’d go camping or even make a play fort at home with a massive curtain draped in no particular way so long as it somewhat covered the top bit? Envision that, ever so slightly bigger, and then a family of 5 or more permanently residing underneath. That’s home. That space which is smaller than most of our personal bedrooms is the kitchen, living room, main room, nursery, bedroom etc. with no real address, is home. And its heartbreaking. I hardly think anyone would willingly opt to live under such circumstances, and again what I can’t wrap my head around is that it wasn’t always like this! These people weren’t born into it, nor it being a life or lifestyle they chose in pursuit of attaining something more than, they literally had no choice! Imagine the state of despair having to make that crucial decision from living in fear of death by war, to what exactly? Living? This isn’t living. Nobody in this day and age should be subjected to, and expected to lead a life based solely upon survival of the fittest nor under such conditions.

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I think it affected us all in different ways, more so because no one has ever experienced anything like it before. Although I was able to debrief my feelings and experience with a couple people I’ve become friends with, and I know mama is always there to listen to my stories, I do wish we as a group had the opportunity to sit and talk about all of it. Both prior to, and post. To help make sense of such a significant shared experience which I’m sure we’re all a little distraught over. The time spent at those particular camps is the closest we’ve been to the border crossing thus far. Imagine waking up every morning, being able to physically see your homeland, your home and entire state of belonging, knowing you have loved ones right over that fence, and unable to do anything about it. If that isn’t the utmost description of helplessness, I don’t know what is. So close yet so far away.

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We head to a few more camps tomorrow, and although we have a better idea of what we might see, its what we can’t unsee which I’m afraid of. Please keep each and every one of these people, and all those around the world who are in similar, if not worse situations in your thoughts and prayers. Give if you can, pray if you can, go if you can. But we must do something. Quietly. Not for us, but for them. xo

Again, do stay posted on instagram/instastory here for videos of the area and speakings with the refugees who share their stories. just for an added bit of live insight if anything x

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Gosh, where to begin when your heart and soul are filled to the brim and you kinda sorta just wish all the worlds problems could be solved with hugs and smiles and laughter x

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Got in late last night and managed to meet everyone I was meant to meet. Headed to the hotel and had a much needed freaking sleep! You know the snickers advert ‘you’re not you when you’re hungry?’, I’m deffo not meself when I’m tired lol I don’t think many people are, but regardless..!

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Had a bit of a later start to the day seeing as the rest of our deployment group is arriving later today so the real work officially starts tomorrow. Qes took me to his beloved rooftop space which I’ve definitely been envious of after creeping his instapostings haha and eep! Such a beautiful view of the entire city and totally been inspired to hit up other rooftops in the future inshallah! P.s how epic are the photos he took?!

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cue my half epic one of him……….

Headed to the ‘Springs of Hope’ after a bit and got the chance to see the fantabulous work SKT’s done for so many of the refugees! Springs of Hope is the orphanage supported by SKT which educates and houses roughly around 250 children and some of their mothers; according to Islam a child becomes orphaned once their father has passed, so if mums are present then they’re kept together with their children. The light radiating off the souls of these children reflecting from their faces was more than enough for me to fall in love with all of it x I have a lame smile plastered on my face as I’m writing haha but wallahi this is what real life blessings look like x

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The cutest tiny humans ever who just wanted to play and hug and hold hands and just so many warm fuzzies in me heart x I can’t even begin to imagine what each of them and their families have endured in bringing them to this point in their lives. I’ll also have you know that my broken mis-matched Arabic allowed for many successful conversations to be had today and helped me make a ton of new tiny people friends so super chuffed with meself! I think that’s probably the most Arabic I’ve ever spoken in one day…! Iman you’d be super proud haha

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Hung about in the evening sorting through photos etc. as we waited for the others to arrive, munched, and had an orientation information session about plans for the next couple of days.

The next couple days are literally based around packing food boxes which we’ll eventually be delivering to various villages, families, and camps; 9am til about 8pm. The goal for this deployment is 2400 boxes; so 1200 tomorrow and 1200 the next day. Items for the boxes have been decided upon by the SKT Turkey team based on the need they’ve noticed in this particular region (rice, flour, oil, tomato paste, vermicelli etc.) and even balloons this time for the kiddies in preparation for Eid! (I thought that was super cute lol)

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If you’d like to see snippets of what the day looks like, keep an eye on me Instagram/instatories (@shazaira) and if you’ve got specific questions both about the organization itself or the situation etc. feel free to drop me a message and I’ll do my best to answer! SKT’s instagram page is also going to be covering this deployment so be sure to give them a follow as well @sktwelfare alongside Mr. Qes @qes321 who’ll also be covering the trip!

Loving you and leaving you with some more goodness from the day! masalama xoxo

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