As refugees and displaced people leave their homes due to war or conflict, creating a new sense of community becomes a priority.
In a displacement camps in northeast Syria, residents often engage in daily camp activities and decisions through community committees. Committees may be responsible for specific tasks aimed at improving living conditions and promoting community cohesion, and/or targeted to engage specific groups, such as young people or women.
These groups provide residents an opportunity to gain a voice in their new home, while also meeting their neighbors and developing new skills.
In 2019, a new committee was formed to support health services and needs in the camp. The health committee, made up of twelve male and female residents, conducts regular visits to assess residents’ medical needs, with a focus on the elderly and persons with disabilities, and connects people with relevant services.
“I am happy because I’ve become an active person and have daily tasks to accomplish. I now feel responsibility towards my community in the camp,” said Melhem, a member of the health committee.
Committee members perform regular follow-up meetings to ensure needs are met and check on patients’ progress. They also deliver supplies, such as wet wipes or diapers, and sometimes escort patients to medical visits.
With the emergence of COVID-19, the health committee became vital to supporting the community. By hanging flyers and conducting information sessions with residents, the committee raised awareness of the disease, how it spreads, and accurate preventative measures.
Om Yasser, age 79, is grateful for the support provided by the health committee during the pandemic.
“They visited me more than once a week,” she said. “They provided me with information and taught me how to use hand sanitizer. They even contacted the Red Crescent medical center for me when there was a delay in the delivery of some ointments I needed.”
Funded by the U.S Agency for International Development, Blumont training and support helps committee members build communication, reporting, and case management skills. Through daily reports and weekly meetings, the committee discusses identified gaps, response plans, and progress with Blumont’s team.
The impact of the committee has been recognized by a number of organizations working in the camp, including the International Rescue Committee and the Kurdish Red Crescent who now rely on their support to meet health needs in the camp.
In delivering assistance, committee members noticed a change in themselves quickly but also a change in perception within her community.
“I noticed a different perception of the female,” said Konuz, a health committee member. “In the beginning, my family was opposed to this type of work, but over time, as a result of the praise coming from the people I helped, I started to get encouragement from my family. Now, I know that women are able to play an important role in society.”
Seeing Kenouz delivering aid to her community has encouraged other young girls, who have voiced their desire to join the committee one day.