When Turkish military action started in October 2019, Blumont teams in the field and those supporting them jumped into action. With more than 400 dedicated local team members working tirelessly in a highly volatile environment, Blumont was able to provide uninterrupted service across Northeast Syria throughout the crisis.
Based in Erbil, Iraq, Zhina began working with Blumont in 2014 and now serves as the HR Coordinator, supporting the Iraq and Syria field teams. As Blumont’s team delivered aid to newly displaced people, many of them were also personally affected by the crisis. Zhina shared her thoughts on how teams handled the risk and uncertainty, while also supporting one another in their shared commitment to deliver humanitarian assistance.
Did Blumont continue working during the military action?
Since most of our team are from the local community, everyone was worried about the people that they were providing service for. It was hard for the team to leave because they were emotionally attached. They felt the need and continued to work.
How were people affected?
Our local teams were all mentally and emotionally affected. Most of them were displaced from their own homes and had to go to other areas. They were worried about their life and the lives of their family members. At the same time, they were worried about Blumont’s beneficiaries, plus the documentation and assets in each office. We had to make sure that all of our people were safe and that records were kept safe so they did not fall into the wrong hands.
How has your team provided support?
We were in regular contact with team members, trying to raise morale and let them know that we were with them. We were calling people daily to stay updated on their location and make sure everyone was safe. We kept in touch with them even on weekends; we never stopped talking with them and asking about their family’s situation. We also hired a psychosocial support consultant to provide any emotional support needed.
What were the conversations like with the team during that time?
They were very scared. One day, a colleague had to leave her home with her family because there were rumors of an attack when the ceasefire between Turkey and the Syrian government ended. She called me crying and said, “please forgive me if I have ever said or done anything wrong to you, Zhina. I may not stay alive to talk to you again.” That was the hardest moment for me ever.
How did Blumont respond to other team needs?
We supported them by being flexible with their work locations, some of them have worked from home and others relocated to other Blumont offices. When Ein Issa and Mabrouka Camps were evacuated, we relocated 58 team members to other locations as well.
We told the team that our houses are always open for them. Our country director announced it in a meeting, that if anyone felt unsafe, we would see what we could do to have them come work with us in the Erbil office temporarily.
Blumont management also decided to provide duty of care packages to our team in Syria as their situation was not guaranteed. This included a two-month salary advance and an extra amount to cover their transportation, among other immediate needs. The duty of care package was meant to provide teams with a financial safety net to cover basic needs and sustain them through an uncertain time, when regular payment systems could be threatened. We wanted to support them in any way we could since everything else was out of our hands.
As the situation continues to evolve in Northeast Syria, Blumont remains committed to responding to the needs and rights of displaced people. Two months after the incursion, Blumont continues to support our staff and local teams as they deliver lifesaving humanitarian assistance to our beneficiaries. Read more about Blumont’s ongoing work here.