On February 6, 2023, a powerful 7.8 magnitude earthquake and a series of strong tremors and aftershocks devastated southeast Turkey and northwest Syria. The death toll has passed 47,000 and continues to rise. Two weeks later, on February 20, 2023, an additional 6.3 magnitude earthquake hit southern Turkey, causing other deaths and injuries.
Tens of thousands are injured and hundreds of thousands displaced across a region already beset by turmoil from the nearly 12-year conflict in Syria and the ongoing refugee crisis. Reports indicate over 87,000 injuries, and at least 47,000 buildings have been destroyed or damaged. After working desperately for almost two weeks to locate additional survivors, search and rescue teams worldwide mainly focus on recovery efforts.
The Cross Cultures leader Rhabab from Syria has given the following report:
SYRIA AFTER THE TERRIBLE EARTHQUAKE
For years, the Syrian people including children, have suffered greatly, both physically and
mentally, due to the war. This suffering was further exacerbated by the recent earthquake, which
caused widespread destruction, claimed many lives, separated families, and forced people to live
In response to this dire situation, numerous individual initiatives were launched in the affected
areas, aimed at providing aid and support to those in need. One such initiative is the provision of
psychological support to children affected by the earthquake, who are currently residing in
Aleppo, Lathakia, and Hama.
This initiative is being implemented by group of volunteers with the
support of local sports organizations in each of the three locations, and comprises a range of
sports activities. The main objective of this initiative is to provide a safe and supportive
environment for children to receive emotional and psychological support, with the aim of helping
them cope with the trauma and stress they have experienced. This is based on the principle that
sports can be a powerful therapeutic tool for individuals.
Many of the coaches who previously worked with the Open Fun Football Schools (OFFS) program
in Syria for the 2021-2022 season have been leading these sport activities in Aleppo, Lathakia,
and Hama, as they possess experience working with children and a deep understanding of their
physical and emotional needs. In total, more than 200 children, including both boys and girls,
have participated in these activities at each of the three locations.
One inspiring story from Aleppo involves, a dedicated OFFS coach who committed to participate
in the initiative, despite losing his mother, brother, and all of his brother’s family members in the
earthquake. The team expressed their condolences for his loss and treated him like family,
reflecting the close bonds and strong sense of community that has developed among those in
the OFFS program.
The coaches of OFFS have also been involved in many other initiatives aimed at providing
essential supplies such as food and clothing to refugees, as well as sharing educational materials
endorsed by UNICEF and engaging in entertainment activities, such as showing cartoon movies,
to help alleviate the stress and hardship experienced by those affected by the earthquake.
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