Whilst we are at the distribution centre, we are met by a man whom we know simply as Kareem’s father. He invites us to his house.
Kareem Jabour was a volunteer with the Red Crescent in Syria. He lost his life eight months ago in Jaramana, while he was trying to move people injured in car bomb to hospital.
As his father’s tears stream, as do his warm words of welcome and greeting. Inside the house, there are photos of Kareem everywhere. I almost have the feeling that Kareem is there with us.
Kareem’s father looks at our photographer, Ibrahim, and says: “When I see you, I see my son. My son was always talking about you and he was always saying: ‘Ibrahim’s camera is following me everywhere I go’.”
He remembers the day of the fatal explosion and how his son Kareem went to help the injured. His friend Rami also followed him to the site of the explosion. Sadly, both died. It was a shock, a very hard shock for the families. Kareem was the only son in his.
A close family friend offers his own perspective: “The volunteers are not carrying weapons, they are carrying their lives, and they carry their own lives to save the lives of others. The work of the Red Crescent volunteers is known to everyone in this area, and is respected by everyone.”
Kareem’s father adds his own anecdote of how he has observed volunteers carrying out their work with such high levels of professionalism. Two days ago, his sister broke her hand and he approached the Red Crescent emergency centre for help. He has nothing but admiration for their work, saying, “I am a doctor, and I watched how they did their job so professionally.”
Despite all the fears, worries and difficulties facing the work of a volunteer in this crisis, the work is widely encouraged and supported. It has become a visible phenomenon among the young people of Syria. Kareem’s father explains how the good reputation of volunteers and the work they do is encouraging other young people to join the Red Crescent to volunteer.
We are suddenly interrupted by the thud of a shell going off. Our colleague Somar receives a message. It’s a mortar shelling in the neighbourhood of Karm Smadi in Jaramana – no injuries, thankfully.
We continue talking to Kareem’s mother. She recalls a day when he came to the house and suddenly started to fill bottles with water, putting them in the refrigerator. “Mum, people do not have cold water to drink.” He was taking the refreshing cold water to displaced people in the shelter near their house.
This was typical of Kareem. We leave his house feeling grateful to have shared our memories with those of his family, whose voices are often unheard.
By Vivian Tou’meh, Syrian Arab Red Crescent