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Our Heavenly Home for Syrian Refugee Women and Children with Medical Issues!

The time was January 2019. We had just opened a new home for refugee women and their children undergoing medical care. We had set up our first medical home only four months earlier for a group of 12 refugees who were residing in dismal conditions, some even sleeping outside on the streets. Our city has a new hospital that provides service for 16,000 patients per day and urgent cases from Syria are immediately sent here. Our homes for medical patients are located one bus stop from this hospital.

The need was great. Following several years of war, Syria lacked hospital facilities for her citizens, and Turkey had generously allowed urgent cases to receive treatment in their excellent hospitals a few hours from the border. Generally one parent or caregiver is allowed to accompany a sick child, while the other parent and children remain in Syria. Most of these people do not have the financial means to rent a room for their stay in Turkey. But they come anyway for opportunity of possible life-saving treatment for a child.

Father of Syrian Refugee Child sleeping outside while his son receives treatment

There were many cases like that of young Mohammed. Little Mohammad's throat was injured in the war. With his father paralyzed, his mother had to stay behind in Syria to look after his brothers and sisters, and he was brought to Turkey for medical care by his grandmother. She was by his side every day. After visiting hours, she slept in the park, washing in the hospital bathrooms with no change of clothes. The medical home gave her a safe place to stay, as well as a place for her grandson to recover in between operations.

Some refugees need to visit the hospital daily. The patient and the accompanying person often don't have the finances to pay for hotels or any accommodation whilst their loved ones are being treated in hospital. The goal of our first medical home was to provide refugees like this with a roof over their heads and and a caring community.

The residence we opened for women was a temporary stopgap as our first medical home was bursting at the seams. The population had soared to 15 refugees and their children living in a small four bedroom apartment. Hearing about the dire need, a refugee helped us with a nearby house in the slums for a reduced price.

The house was not ideal, as it was dark and moldy in the winter, but it was at least a temporary solution.

We fixed up this “women’s home” the best we could, but it was painfully obvious this was not the ideal situation for our children with cancer to be spending the winter. There were frequent electrical problems as the house was quite old, and due to the lack of sunlight, the toxic black mold seemed to grow exponentially in the damp dark bedrooms. We had to move our precious children to a better place!

We sent out a notice on Facebook and emails that the women’s home needed help. Within forty eight hours, Mauro Bossi, a Safe Haven teammate who had visited us thrice from New York sent us the great news that his friend Nicola Zanatta for his birthday would do a fundraiser for Mauro’s work with the refugees. Mauro and Nicola graciously agreed to use the funds for new housing for the women. The event was a great success, and covered a whole year’s rent for a new apartment for the women and their kids, covered the bills for the first few months and with enough left over to purchase a sewing machine for one of our refugee families to help them become self-supporting.

The new house was beautiful and spacious but still lacked the “homey” touch. Dandelion Association from Barcelona came to the rescue. They put great effort into making the large apartment child-friendly so the children can have a better healing experience. They purchased cupboards for each room, colorful bedspreads, new curtains, beautiful pullout beds, toys, children’s books, toy shelves and much more.

Photo: Esther Cabezas, from Dandelion Association Barcelona setting up cupboards at our medical home

We endeavor to provide much-needed comfort and support for those who are going through impossible times. Sometimes when one travels through such hardships, the smallest things make the biggest difference: a bed, a shower, somewhere to wash your clothes or cook food.

The women continually express their thanks for their “new home”. Many of our guests have lost homes and live in tent cities in Syria. They are just so grateful to have a proper home to stay in while receiving treatment here. It is our hope that these refugee women will find heading for their own hearts as well as for their sick children, while staying with us.

Photo: Mauro Bossi visiting Syrian refugees in 2018

Thanks to all of you who are helping support our medical homes and specifically to Mario Bossi, Nicola Zanatta, Barcelona Dandelion Association, Zahida, Nadine, Lynn, Leslie, Eileen, Marcia, Asma and others who have sent gifts to help set up the new home and cover their electricity, water and many other needs. We are thankful that they have a caring and supportive home to stay in while their loved ones are receiving treatment!

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