Enab Baladi Issue # 87 – Sun, Oct. 20, 2013
As the ongoing crisis tightens on the Syrian people, their financial status dramatically worsens. Some people are overcome with anguish and distress; others defeat pain and agony through being proactive and focusing their energy on what they can control.
Seventy-five-year old Om Muhammad acquired sewing skills during her childhood, as it was common for girls at the time. She worked for years in making clothes for her family. Last year, Om Muhammad decided to invest her skill, time and part of her own money in serving the community. Following Daraya Massacre in August 2013, she made “high quality” clothes for children and distributed them right before Al Adha Eid (Festival) in collaboration with “Orphan Care”, a local relief organization. She aimed at bringing happiness to the orphans whose numbers increased drastically in the town after the massacre. Om Muhammad says “The responsibility of taking care of these orphans falls onto each and every one in society; no one can disclaim this responsibility”.
Om Muhammad had to flee Daraya after the last ongoing military campaign; thus she lost her sewing machine, yet her willingness to help is evident. Since the area where they moved to, Al Tal in Damascus Suburbs- is extremely cold, she turned to knitting to provide the family with warm clothes. Om Muhammad encouraged her neighbor -another displaced family- to fill her spare time with something productive and useful, so Om Muhammad brought her some knitting wool and a needle and taught her how to use them. The neighbor practiced and improved her skills remarkably; she made sweaters, scarfs, and socks for her family and also she made one and gave it to Om Muhammad as a gift to express her gratitude. Today she is working on knitting for others to enhance the family’s finance.
A couple of months later, an old woman gave away her sewing machine to Om Muhammad who resumed her original craft, sewing. She made clothes for young boys and girls, and distributed them among displaced families from Daraya.
As the new academic was approaching, Om Muhammad decided to make school backpacks for the deprived children; she had noticed that most displaced kids could not afford backpacks during the previous year, and they had to use plastic bags to carry their books. The backpacks were prepared along with matching pen cases; half of them were distributed for free through relief department of LCDC (Local Council of Daraya City) among displaced kids in Al Tal; Om Muhammad had to sell the other half to another relief organization at a costly price in order to maintain financial support for her next project; this half was distributed among Darayan kids who moved to the towns nearby Daraya where services, shops and transportations are not available. The latest project of Om Muhammad was some clothes for young boys and girls, which were also distributed through relief organizations.
Om Muhammad’s motive for doing these projects was to serve her community; she is assured that “God created people to help each other; and that true worship and true faith is the one which has practical and effective role in reforming human life, especially during times of crisis”.
Despite the various difficulties she faced throughout all the stages of her work, getting required material under siege in Daraya right after the massacre or during displacement due to poor transportations and thorough search at checkpoints, all of the projects were “successful, and were favorably judged by others”. Om Muhammad added that she was able to make most of the textile, benefiting from the remaining small pieces in making baby clothes or in decorating other pieces; also she resorted to overcasting or seaming stitches to decorate the clothes she made in order to save further costs of additional decorations for larger quantities.
Throughout her work, many people helped Om Muhammad; stitching workshops who covered the whole fees or gave up their charges. Many others helped her get needed materials or distribute products.
There is an “Om Muhammad” in each neighbourhood of Syria; and there is enough power and energy in each Syrian that is enough to make a change around, and to encourage others to take the initiative to change as well. All we – the Syrians- need is to believe in ourselves and to know how to direct this energy towards what is helpful, good and effective.