The kayak up Loch Tay will seem tough after the mountain phase. You will be tired, but you will be safe. The journey made by many refugees is long and risky and includes crossing the Mediterranean Sea. This is a journey that Walaa and her family had to undergo in 2015. Walaa and her family were lucky enough to all survive the journey and when they arrived in Europe Mercy Corps were there to support them.
At 8 months old, Fatima was sleeping in her bed when a rocket fell on her house and sparked a fire. Walaa, Fatima’s mother ran into the wreckage to find her daughter on fire.
Fatima has had a dozen operations to treat her burns, but she can’t walk, hear or speak. As the Syrian conflict dragged on, it became increasingly difficult for Walaa to access medical care for Fatima. Walaa and her husband decided their only choice was to try to get to Europe.
Walaa’s husband left Syria first in July 2015. Six months later, Walaa and her children - 4-year-old Sami, 3-year-old Fatima and 2-year-old Salma - left too. They walked the desert for two days to Turkey’s border, where smugglers took them across the country and across the Aegean Sea. Walaa and her children were forced to get into a flimsy rubber dinghy; the journey across the water was both dangerous and terrifying.
On the Greek island of Lesvos, waiting to find out if her family’s asylum would be granted and their family could be reunited in Germany, Walaa told us of her fears. “We do not know what will happen to us. We are trapped in the middle, far from our family and far from my husband. We are alone, and it’s tough.”
To ease that burden, Mercy Corps provided Walaa with a prepaid card to purchase food and clothes for her family and pay for transportation costs. In a life of unknowns, cash has given Walaa a feeling of freedom and dignity; the ability to choose how to provide for, and meet the basic needs of her children. Walaa uses the cash to create little moments of joy for the children, such as purchasing a treat of peanuts and soda for Sami and Salma. “So they can forget the hunger and the horrible days they’ve lived. So they can be happy.”
As you’re training for that 7 mile stretch of Loch Tay in your kayak, remember that your journey is enabling Mercy Corps to help those who have been forced to flee conflict. Push through the paddling pain and think that together, we can make a difference.