Postcards from Syria: This is what hope looks like

It’s one day after Ahmed told me all the things you only tell someone if you don’t think you’ll ever talk to them again.

The attacks are getting closer to his house, and are likely to continue into the foreseeable future.

So I did what any self-respecting 40-something mom living in cushy American suburbia would do: I freaked out and blabbed my feelings all over Facebook. I had the audacity to complain about the challenges of loving someone trapped in a war zone. Then I went to bed, perhaps with some pharmaceutical assistance.

When I woke up at 3:00 am (10:00 am his time), I checked my messages and was relieved to see Ahmed was still alive. We chatted, he yelled at me for worrying, then I went back to sleep.

When I pulled myself out of bed at 6:00 am I was heartened to see that many had read my post and donated to our crowdfunding site set up to bring his family to a safe life in Canada. We were a few hundred dollars closer, and two amazing women had agreed to host fundraising events in Washington state and Australia, respectively.

Then I got to work at 9:00 am, and I got a call from an anonymous donor.

Donor: We’ve been wanting to talk to you about the work you’re doing with refugees.
Me: Okay, what would you like to talk about?
Donor: We’ve been reading your posts about Ahmed. We want to help him and his family, so we have a proposal for you.
Me: Sure, what do you have in mind?
Donor: It’s getting more dangerous for them to live there.
Me: True.
Donor: So they need to get out asap.
Me: Also true.
Donor: We’d like to match every donation for the next two weeks, up to $10,000.
Me: *sobbing*
Donor: Hello?
Me: *Sniffing* Wow. That’s really generous.
Donor: Tell him to keep his head down and get ready to get out of Dodge.
Me: Um, wow. That’s amazing. I’ll let everyone know.

My hands were shaking too hard to type efficiently but I wanted Ahmed to be the first to know.

Me: arew thou there?
Ahmed: Hello, Marcy. I’m sorry I don’t understand you.
Me: You’ree there omg you’re not going to beliee thiis
Ahmed: r u ok?

I usually fix typos. Not today.

Me: Someone is willing to donate $10,000 if other people donate that much too.
Ahmed: What did u say? 10,000$? Are you sure?
Me: I am positie. sorry positive.
Ahmed: OMG

It always cracks me up when he says that. He never swears and I’m not sure he knows that’s  officially taking the Lord’s name in vain. But to him, God is Allah, and OMA just doesn’t have the same ring to it.

Me: OMG!!!!
Ahmed: Incredible.
Me: yes!
Ahmed: Are you sure? 10,000$?
Me: Ten Thousand US Dollars and zero cents. lol.
Ahmed: What I have to say? How can I say thank u?? Marcyyyyyyyyy it’s incredible.
Me: It is! But we have to get other people to donate $10,000 in two weeks so we can get the whole amount. Then it will be $20,000 total and we will meet our goal and you all can be safe in Turkey, then come to Canada.
Ahmed: Can u talk? Let’s video.

We rarely video. The connection is always so slow on his side. Because, war.  But after a few false starts we connected and his smile was so big I could barely see the rest of his face. But…

Me: OMG are you outside???

He spends most of his time inside the house because it’s safer. He says it feels like jail.

Ahmed: Yes, the internet is better out here.
Me: GET BACK INSIDE! Are you crazy?

But I was laughing.

Ahmed: Never mind. I won’t stay out long. I wanted to see you. It’s so amazing.
Me: Yes it’s amazing! Wait, are those cars driving on the street behind you?
Ahmed: [looks behind him, looks at me like I’m nuts] What? Yes, there are cars.
Ahmed: We are accustomed. We have to do things too even tho we have war.
Me: Right. Okay, well, WOW, yes, we have some work to do. But stay hopeful, little brother.
Ahmed: I will. I don’t know how to thank you and please thank the donors and everyone who is donating. I can’t believe it, all of you are so so kind.

And then he did.

But not before I had taken some screen shots of his giant smile. I emailed one to the donors, with a short message:

Dear Donors: You are one of the few who can see Ahmed’s face before he is safely outside Syria, away from the risk of being arrested for making plans with us. But I wanted to send his photo to you because this… this is what hope looks like.

To everyone who has donated: You are proof that humanity shines brightest in the darkest of hours.

Donate and learn more about his family here: 


Can’t donate but want to help? Learn how here.


*Because Ahmed and family are still in Syria and could be targeted, it is not safe to use their real names or photos.

Banner Photo by Pixabay User Alexa Fotos

Stamp image by Wikimedia user Stan Shebs, Creative Commons


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