Volunteers seek Utahns' help to keep Syrians alive through winter
As the death toll from Syria's civil war mounts, so too does the number of citizens who have lost their families, their jobs and their homes.
But after more than two years of conflict, Americans may have become desensitized to their plight.
Salt Lake City resident and Syrian expatriate Samah Bassas is struggling to meet the deadline for "Keep Syrians Warm," an effort to fill a shipping container with items to help displaced Syrian orphans and widows survive the winter in their ravaged cities.
Nighttime temperatures often dip below freezing during Syria's winter, and the latest United Nations estimate found that more than 6.5 million people still living within Syria's borders including more than 2 million children have been displaced by the war. Aid workers recently told The New York Times that without aid, many of them are in imminent danger.
"The people over there, they will appreciate anything," said Bassas, who moved to Utah from Aleppo more than 15 years ago. "They are in need. People are being sheltered by trees."
Last year, Bassas helped organize "Don't Leave Syrians Cold," a clothing drive for Syrian refugees living in rugged camps, and she said the Utah community was more forthcoming then with its donations. "Keep Syrians Warm" volunteers have accumulated less than half the items they need to fill a shipping container, and time is running out to get the clothes to Syrians before the cold sets in.
"From what we have, it looks to me like it's a lot," she said. "But we need a lot more."
The container will be shipped by aid group NuDay Syria, and Bassas has connected with volunteers on the ground many of them college students whom she feels are worthy of her trust.
Clothing items needed include jackets, sweaters, blankets, boots, sneakers, gloves, hats and socks. They also will take crutches, wheelchairs, baby walkers, play pens, strollers, stuffed animals and non-battery-operated toys.
"It's my people," Bassas says. "It's my country. It's getting torn apart. My people are getting killed and displaced, and most of them are civilians. You cannot just watch the news and not do anything."
Utah Islamic Center • 9000 South 225 W., Sandy
Masjid Alnoor • 700 E. 740 South, Salt Lake City
Iqra Academy • 2700 W. 3990 South, West Valley City
Also • 4792 Whisperwood Drive, Lehi
More information • Call Bassas at 801-228-7228