The money sent to Syria will help restore critical Church infrastructure and continue to provide aid to those in need.
International pontifical charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) has approved a second aid package of close to half a million dollars ( $500,000 ) to help the local Church recover from the devastating February earthquake.
ACN was one of the first international organisations to intervene in relief efforts in Syria after the earthquake, since it already had a presence on the ground and local trusted partners in place. The Catholic charity provided material, psychological and educational assistance. The new aid package will go towards preserving and restoring crucial Church infrastructure, directly benefitting around 30,000 people from eight different rites in the four governorates most affected by the earthquake.
“ACN is grateful to its benefactors for supporting this new earthquake response package. This package covers repairs to nine churches and monasteries, two schools, one kindergarten, a community centre and a youth centre. It also covers the purchase of a new vehicle for a missionary priest whose van was crushed by rubble during the quake” said Xavier Stephen Bisits, ACN’s representative in Syria, Lebanon and Egypt.
“This aid will help the Church to get back on its feet, to keep serving the most vulnerable, and to continue its most basic pastoral work, in a country that is still in crisis mode”, added Bisits, who travelled to the affected region to oversee relief efforts in the immediate aftermath of the February quake and has made regular visits since.
Aleppo, Latakia and Hama
More than half of the aid, 62%, will go to Aleppo, and will include the restoration of two schools and a charity centre that helps the poor. By contributing to the restoration of the Mekhtarist school and the Karen Geppe Gemaran school in this city, ACN is helping to ensure that children can continue to receive education in a safe environment, thereby guaranteeing greater social and family stability.
Close to 25% of the aid will go to Latakia, where ACN will be funding the restoration of three churches, including the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of St. George, the Catholic Melkite Monastery of Our Lady of Joy, and the Armenian Orthodox Church of St. Mary.
Beneficiaries thank ACN
The 6 February earthquake that hit Turkey and Syria was registered as 7.8 on the Richter scale, and was the largest in the region in over 80 years. The total confirmed death toll was close to 60,000 people, mostly in Turkey. Around 8,500 people died in Syria.
Since then, ACN has repaired the houses of Christians in four different governorates; paid the rent of displaced families; provided emergency aid to a total of 2,800 families; funded summertime activities, as well as pastoral support for children and families and distributed medicines to affected Christians.
“ACN’s support was fundamental to the implementation of the emergency response in Latakia, where 440 families were helped through various activities, including the distribution of food kits and hygiene items, as well as the rehabilitation of four houses”, said Fr Fadi Azar, a parish priest in Latakia, in response to ACN’s support so far.
Michlen Mukel is another of the beneficiaries of ACN’s first aid package. She and her family refused to leave Aleppo despite 12 years of war, a crippling financial crisis and the earthquake which literally shook the foundations of their existence. The building she lives in was severely damaged.
“We reached out to several organisations for help, and we were fortunate enough to receive support from the Church and ACN. They began reinforcing the roof and fourth floor and also worked on the basement and foundations. I am so grateful to everyone who contributed to this important project, especially the benefactors. Thanks to their efforts, our homes are safe and ready for the winter”, she told ACN.