Turn on a light in Syria for a brighter future

Amy Rodriguez18 June 2021

The light emergency in Syria is still a reality: only 2 hours of electricity and only enough Watt to keep 2 lightbulbs working. 

What would be an unbearable situation for most of us, for Ayham, a Pro Terra Sancta employee in Damascus, is the daily reality: “You cannot imagine how negative is the impact of the lack of electricity in our lives”, he says. 

Because of the war, the excise duties and the embargo, the light emergency has been ongoing for 10 years already. Yet, after the new sanctions imposed on Syria by the US and EU, the Covid and the worsening of the economic crisis, electricity has become a commodity that few can afford. 

Empty batteries and streets in the darkness: “it’s so depressing here” 

“In order to keep my laptop and mobile phone battery charged until the end of the day, I have to follow a proper strategy”, explains Ayham. Batteries and chargers themselves are sold at ridiculously high prices. Speculation on electronic devices is out of control. 

When the sun sets, the streets are submerged by darkness. People that can afford to buy fuel and use a car, prefer to drive with sunlight as many times streetlights and traffic signals are not working: driving is a dangerous thing to do. 

Businesses, houses and offices are usually in the dark: even in the Pro Terra Sancta offices there is no electricity for 15 hours a day. The fuel is precious and it’s better to save it for emergency rooms, better not to consume it for computers and printers. 

Electricity lacking greatly impacts in a negative way on the job of Ayham and his colleagues. “Everyday I work from home”, explains Ayham, “and at 5 pm, if there is electricity, I will go to the office to finish my daily tasks”. 

Tagrid, our Wonder Woman 

Tagrid is a cleaning lady working in the same building where our Association’s offices are located. She’s also one of the beneficiaries of our housing program as, even if she’s working three jobs, she cannot meet even half of her family monthly expenses

Her husband is very hill and cannot help financially. Tagrid is always on the hunt for another job that could bring home some extra cash. Her goal is to sustain her only son that is attending the University. 

Her generosity and resilience made her the most beloved added member of Damascus’ Pro Terra Sancta staff: “everyday, after going to the baker to buy the bread for her family, she comes by and feeds us all”, says Ayham. 

When there is no light, the street becomes a dangerous school of life 

Kids are the ones that have been affected the worst from the lack of electricity. The Covid-19 pandemic caused the anticipated closure of schools and kids are now in the streets searching for light, life and playmates

“It is a great danger, though: we know what kids can learn in the streets…” says Ayham, who, as Scout Leader, has a great load of experience in educating children and young adults. 

That’s why, two years ago, a music focused educational program was activated in the Franciscan Care Centre. The aim is to keep kids away from the streets and help them study. 

Despite the difficulties in doing their job, Ayham and Damascus’ staff, as well as the one in Aleppo, are a well operating group and they are still highly motivated in helping their community. 

Light emergency further worsened an already critical situation due to the economic crisis and international sanctions. “Frauds, thiefs, famine and poverty are everywhere”, bitterly adds Ayham, “but we cannot give up and adapt to this condition. A brighter future is possible!”.