Shoes for Syrian Refugees

December 11, 2013 • Iraq
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Samaritan’s Purse distributes nearly 1,500 pairs of shoes to refugees who must battle harsh winter conditions

Samaritan’s Purse continues to respond to the Syrian refugee crisis that has forced millions of men, women, and children to flee a bloody civil war in their homeland for safe refuge in neighboring countries throughout the region.

Give Shoes and ClothesThe U.N. refugee agency estimates that in the past two months, about 63,000 Syrians have entered northern Iraq, bringing the total number of refugees there to at least 220,000.

Many reside in temporary camps across the country, living in makeshift tents and surviving on monthly food rations provided by the local government.

But these struggling families who left almost everything behind lack other basic necessities such as quality shoes on their feet and warm clothing on their backs. With the harsh winter months approaching, this need is more urgent than ever.

Recently Samaritan’s Purse managed a shoe distribution for Syrian refugees in a camp located about 30 minutes outside of Sulaymaniyah. The camp was established in mid-August in the town of Arbat, and there are currently about 350 families living in the camp.

“Our first visit to the camp in Arbat revealed one immediate need,” said Hallie Powers, a member of the Samaritan’s Purse team. “The refugees desperately needed shoes.”

In order to conduct a distribution, Samaritan’s Purse first had to meet with the mayor of Arbat to discuss our plans, as well as meet with two other humanitarian relief organizations that were making plans to distribute shoes in the same camp.

“We were able to meet with the mayor, and he gave us approval to distribute the shoes,” Powers said. “We also had a chance to partner with the other organizations.”

One offered us the use of its tent in the camp, and we worked together to assist with the registration process and the distribution of shoes.

“It was really amazing to see all of these organizations come together to help fill a need for the Syrians in this camp,” Powers said.

Boxes of shoes were unloaded into the tent around 7:30 a.m. After everything was set up, a few of the volunteers went to the first section of tents to announce the distribution.

Many of the refugees who lined up for registration wore nothing but flimsy, broken sandals. After they received their new shoes, the old sandals were thrown out.

At one point during the distribution, someone said, “It’s like Christmas!”

After one Syrian woman had received shoes for her entire family, she told Powers, “Thank you.”

By the end of the day, 1,417 pairs of shoes were distributed to 325 households in Arbat Camp.

“Matthew 10:42 says, ‘If anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward,’” Powers said. “I believe we were truly able to demonstrate the love of Jesus through this distribution.”

With the winter months come cold temperatures and lots of mud. The shoes we distributed are a good start at providing Syrian refugees with quality footwear, but they will not be sufficient. Please pray that God will provide cold weather shoes before the rain and snow begin.