By John Balouziyeh*
Having just returned from Iraq, I had the opportunity to bring inspiration to Syrian refugees by decorating their tents and camps with Stars of Hope. The Stars, painted by attorneys and staff from the New York office of my law firm, Dentons, and by children at My Little School in Riyadh, contained messages of encouragement in Arabic and English.
Working with Becky Bakr Abdulla from the Norwegian Refugee Council and Kenneth D’Alessandro from the Saudi Red Crescent, we distributed Stars of Hope at Darashakran Refugee Camp and Kawergosk Refugee Camp for Syrian refugees, as well as at Madrasat Ashtar Camp for internally-displaced Iraqi Yezidis.
Each Star contained a special message of hope, painted in Arabic or English. The meaning of the Arabic words are as follows:
سلام = peace
أمل = hope
حلم = dream
صداقة = friendship
نور = light
تشجيع = courage
أمان = safety
As I gave each child a star, their eyes lit up as though I had given them a priceless treasure. After we had completed distributing the Stars, the children did not turn around and ask for food or money. Their only demand was that we stay and play with them. As I learned from this and many other experiences, merely showing kindness and attention to these children is as important as feeding and clothing them; in meeting physical needs we should not overlook the equally-important emotional needs.
The Stars of Hope shine brightly against the gray dullness of weathered tents and improvised shelters. Their words bring messages of hope in otherwise desolate landscapes. Their bright colors stand out against and overpower the destruction that surround them, reminding us that human kindness always triumphs over cruelty and indifference.
In the stark contrast of the Stars of Hope against the backdrop of violence and persecution, the Stars remind us that in Syria, as in the surrounding countries, there is hope and a future.