While some parts of Aleppo were spared by the bombardments, others were badly hit: 1/3 of the city is now in ruins. In these quarters, nothing remains but collapsed walls on the ground, piles of stones tangled in electric cables and rusty bars. It is sometimes impossible to imagine where the houses were, only the paths strewn with debris and lined with rubble partially indicate the presence of buildings or houses. An open-air horror museum, where everyone invents a story of the place. Bombings, assassinations, massacres, the morbid has left the dream to strike reality.
In these devastated neighborhoods, like the Armenian one of Midan, the volunteers of SOS Chrétiens d’Orient take part in reconstruction projects to help families return to their homes. A long-term project carried out with Syrian engineers and workers; a titanic work in an apocalyptic setting.
"Amidst the ruins: electric wires and bullet holes on the walls. Sheer violence that you would only like to see in movies and video games.
Barely 15 minutes ago, I saw large old houses, open streets where you could walk safely. Here is another reality: those of terrorists seeking to kill for pleasure and those of helpless families seeking to live in peace. It all reminds me of what I faced in Homs: great misery in a giant coffin.
We may experience violence on a daily basis through the worst that nature presents, but we never get used to it. It’s always a shock to walk where Syrians have lost their lives… for nothing! Carnage is carnage and no words could perfectly describe what I see.
I enter through the gates of a building and after climbing a few floors, I enter a ransacked apartment. I can guess where the bathroom is from the remains of the tiles.
There is nothing left, both in the walls and in the furniture, because everything has been stolen. Looters took over the sinks, and everything they found to resell. This is the fruit of war: each in his own way tries to provide for his needs, to the detriment of others. Sadness, poverty, despair cause this extreme violence, these thefts. I am in front of a scene of horror: bullet holes, destroyed windows, where I can see the street without even leaning over. No glass at all... they exploded because of the blast of the explosions.
The engineer of SOS Chrétiens d’Orient, assisted by volunteers, measures the dimension of each wall, under the sad and desperate eyes of the beneficiaries. They show us the house and show me the places to photograph. I then tackle the details, the work of the volunteers, I immortalize each of these moments.
As in Homs, employees and volunteers are getting organized and putting their hearts into work. The inhabitants walk around their homes, looking at us with hopeful but also a little discouraged eyes. The engineer takes the notes, and the volunteers, the tape measure under their arm, respond to her requests. For my part, I photograph the debris, the bullet holes, the destroyed walls, as well as all the volunteers there. The head of mission talks fom time to time with the beneficiaries and the engineer. The work is likely to last nearly two months, there is no time to waste, the family needs us, our help.
In this neighborhood, all the buildings are in ruins. We are rebuilding a house, but there are so many others battered by the winds and the memory of the bombing. I only see the window frames and then… nothing. I don't even know how to describe the absence of nothing to you, because how do you destroy the void? How to describe what no longer exists?
What we are doing is a little grain of sand on the beach! But it all begins after having moved that grain of sand. I get back to work, telling myself that I am participating on my scale, and that's not much, in the before / after of this house and the rebirth of this family.
God willing, the soon to be rebuilt walls will fill with memories and children's laughter. I feel useful, although my role is limited to photographing the space and asking for information. Deep inside, I have the satisfaction of having been a protagonist of a happiness soon to be found. Each in their own way, according to our means and our abilities, we have the power to bring back a smile.
Many Syrians have a house to rebuild. Each has its history, each has its characteristics, but the result will be the same: within its 4 walls, each will welcome a surviving family who can finally come back to life.
Here, the word "emergency mission" takes on its full meaning to me. I see the incredible work of workers, engineers and masons. What I do is not impressive, but I am learning. I learn to be patient, I learn to be happy with what I have, I learn to be thankful.
I am constantly confronted with the harsh reality of life, but with a little hope anything is possible and all these families show it to me over and over again. I take life lessons from everyone without them even realizing it, and for that I cannot thank them enough.
The association is committed to funding the reconstruction of this house up to € 2,500. A substantial sum and yet so small compared to the joy it will provide once spent. As the holidays approach, remember that in Syria, a people are still waiting to RELIVE.