Syria: daily life a struggle to survive
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  Jordan: an arduous and perilous journey to safety
  Jordan: caught between memories of the past and the reality of today
  Jordan: dreaming of an open Syria
  Jordan: eat dust here or die in Syria
  Jordan: online education, harnessing the skills of refugees
  Jordan: refugees helping refugees
  JRS Middle East Director visits US
  Lebanon: a cup of tea in the snow
  Lebanon: keeping a special spirit alive
  Lebanon: language barriers prevent Syrian children from attending school
  Lebanon: Syrian families flee to protect their children
  Prayer for Syria: blessed are the peacemakers
  Syria: amidst upheaval, the scope of services expands
  Syria: bread and fuel shortages in Aleppo add to daily woes
  Syria: bringing families together
  Syria: dialogue is the solution, not war
  Syria: displaced Syrians struggle to find shelter
  Syria: encouraging internally displaced persons to be involved in emergency assistance
  Syria: holding onto normality in Aleppo
  Syria: humanitarian situation in the region deteriorating rapidly
  Syria: in conflict, persecution affects Muslims and Christians alike
  Syria: Iraqi refugees on the sidelines of yet another conflict
  Syria: JRS expands emergency support in Aleppo
  Syria: local networks of solidarity and JRS helping displaced families
  Syria: refugee finds his life's purpose at Al Mukhales Centre
  Syria: resilience and hope
  Syria: thousands displaced after upsurge in violence in Sheikh Maqsoud
  Syria: turning pain into their most powerful weapon
  Syria: two years of conflict threaten children's education and well-being
  Syria: update on JRS emergency assistance
  Syria: urgent need for winter supplies
  Syria: violence in Damascus fuels hopelessness, fear
  Syria: volunteers are essential to the work of JRS
  Syria: work of Jesuit community recognised by German human rights foundation
  Syria: working under principles of neutrality, non-violence and inclusiveness
  USA: the Jesuit Refugee Service stands with Syria
  Voices of Europe unite to help Syrian refugees


Many children have not been able to attend school for nearly one year due to the conflict, JRS provides educational activities for these children to help restore normality to their lives, Aleppo, Syria (Avo Kaprealian & Sedki Al Imam/JRS)
Amman, 11 October 2012 – Stray bullets frequently land on the floor of the recently relocated JRS kitchen in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo, but despite increased security concerns JRS teams have been able to expand its small, but concrete, assistance to those caught in the crisis.

"Our field kitchen is back up and running. We had a surprisingly smooth first day", enthused fellow JRS volunteer and Syrian national Sami in a rare online chat while speaking of the kitchen that was relocated after closing down briefly in late September.

Perhaps a blessing in disguise, the relocation meant that the operation, which originally provided 5,000 hot meals daily, could be moved to a more spacious location and increase the number of meals provided to 10,000 per day allowing for decreased stress levels during distribution hours. In addition, the Syrian Arab Red Crescent and the UN World Food Programme have fortunately been in a position to provide support for the kitchen allowing for increased capacity.

Shelter. During the summer, official permission was granted to use schools as temporary shelters causing an influx of thousands of IDPs who moved from public parks, where they previously sought safety, into 30 schools in Aleppo. However, these facilities can no longer house the rising numbers of vulnerable persons in need of shelter today.

"We're experiencing a sharp increase in internal displacement. Over the past ten days, the parks are filling up again", said Sami in an effort to explain the situation on the ground.

Just last week, one of the five shelters (former schools) for which JRS is currently responsible was evacuated by security forces, leading to the displacement of people who had already been forced out of their homes.

"A section of the main Aleppo ring-road is full of people just wandering around aimlessly", Sami continued.

As the war spreads throughout the city, IDPs are crowding into the few areas not under constant bombardment. In the face of ongoing electricity and water shortages, assisting all those in need is rarely possible and not sustainable in the long run.

"As a result of the fighting, few places are safe in Aleppo and many people are isolated. With winter approaching, which is particularly harsh here in Aleppo, and their houses destroyed, where will the families find sufficient shelter?" asked JRS Middle East and North Africa Director, Nawras Sammour SJ.


Destruction up close.
Even JRS has not been spared from the wave of destruction. In September, the JRS Deir Vartan Centre was the scene of fighting between rebel and government forces. A few weeks earlier, JRS had fortunately relocated its services elsewhere due to security concerns. Therefore, no staff were injured in the attacks; but exactly when they will be able to re-enter Deir Vartan remains uncertain.

Once a place where Iraqi refugees and displaced Syrians came to learn and grow together, to rebuild their lives and their communities, much of Deir Vartan has now been reduced to rubble. Even though the building may have been seriously damaged, the enduring spirit of the Deir is within the people.

Whatever happens in the future, the only near certain outcome is that volunteers, like Sami, will continue to work with JRS responding as flexibly and effectively as they can. Our connection to the local Jesuits and informal support networks of Christians and Muslims on the ground help us reach families in need. Unfortunately, this assistance, though essential – is but a grain of sand upon the shore.

As the destruction continues, needs grow. Without a clear sign of any peaceful solution, prospects for security appear grim and the hostility of a harsh winter provokes concern for people displaced from their homes. Regardless of JRS ability to assist these people to find food and shelter, no solution will arise until the environment permits an end to violence and the negotiation of lasting peace.

Zerene Haddad, Communications Officer, JRS Middle East and North Africa

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