I have not visited my home country in 12 years. When I think about Eastern Ghouta, I think about the swing my grandpa used to push me on as a 4-year-old- that Assad regime bombed and destoryed. If I were to visit today, I would only see ashes and dust. During the summertime in Damascus, I would walk the streets of Souq Al Hamidiyah, where I would get pistachio-dipped ice cream. If I were to visit today, I would only hear the Russian language spoken around me.
You expect these patients to have lost all hope. However, they laughed and played with us just as a friend or little sister would. No matter how severe their condition, the House of Healing was prepared to provide the best care possible for each patient that entered its doors.
The next day, I woke up prepared for another day of meetings. However, at the last minute, our executive director, Mouaz Mosutafa, told our group that we would be heading to a liberated city in the north of Syria, Aleppo. I had no words and my thoughts immediately raced back to the memories as a child in my beautiful Syria. Before I could even grasp the idea that I would be returning to my home country for the first time in 12 years, I was in a van on the way to the border.
Accompanied by Turkish forces throughout the trip, they ensured that our visit was as safe and secure as possible. Our first stop was the industrial city of Al-Rai. Al-Rai was overtaken by ISIS and then liberated, becoming a central industrial location supported by Turkish and free Syrian governments that have invested into rebuilding the area.
There is a new, free Syria being rebuilt right in front of my eyes and I couldn’t believe it.
We then visited one of the eight local hospitals in the area. The local hospital in Al-Rai was brand new. It was 10,000 square meters with 24 clinics, 56 doctors, 42 specialists, 18 incubators, 9 on-call general doctors, and 4 dentists. The hospital offers general, neural, heart, digestive, and dialysis surgery and performs at least 15 surgeries a day. A medical school was soon to open in a new building on the campus.
Shortly after, our group visited a renovated three level secondary school that specialzies in science and technology. It was incredible to see a once-destroyed city being beautifully rebuilt with emphasis on education and opportunity.