by: Vivian Tou’meh
Wafaa Malla Aref’s is a former Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) volunteer who is now working in al-Battani Polyclinic in al-Raqqah. Since the beginning of the events in al-Raqqah, only men were allowed to volunteer with SARC, it was strange to see a woman volunteer, but Wafaa broke the rules and continued her work.
Wafaa her life as a Red Crescent volunteer was drive by devotion and the chance to make a difference to the lives of Syrians. The work, she says, has given her the patience to deal with difficult situations.
“I started as a SARC volunteer in February 2006. I did a first aid training course on how to deal with disasters, and then completed a psychosocial support course.
“Every day, I start my work from 9am at the clinic and work until 2pm. I have to be kind and helpful to all people visiting us.
“The volunteering work is very hard in al-Raqqah, especially when it comes to dealing with groups that we know little about. We have constant accusations from one side or another; my brother was kidnapped with his colleague in November 2013 as they returned from a first aid mission.
“In July 2007, I started my work as a registration clerk at al-Battani polyclinic. This dispensary was providing medical care, treatments, and medication to Iraqi refugees at that time. I was a part of the assessment team too. We would visit families in their homes – especially those most vulnerable – to make sure we were providing the most appropriate services.
“In November 2012, the SARC al-Raqqah branch assessment team needed a female member to work on the ground, and so I worked in the morning in al-Battani clinic and then with the assessment teams in the evening.
“The best thing about being a SARC volunteer is abiding by the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement’s humanitarian principles, helping the needy, the poor, the disabled, with no racial, ethnic or religious discrimination.
“If life had been normal, I would have completed my studies at Damascus University’s faculty of arts and humanities. If there was no conflict in Syria, my life would have been smoother: I would have graduated from university, begun my career and been able to travel.
“I hope that a solution to the conflict in Syria is found soon to limit the human suffering and losses.