One of the most important responsibilities of our Syria team is protection of the most vulnerable displaced people – women, children, the elderly – and helping them stay safe in conflicts and disasters.
We constantly inquire: How safe do you feel? Who do you feel safe with, or not? Does fear or your lack of safety hinder your getting food and medicine? Does your safety depend on your gender? Or your age?
We want to make sure that individuals and communities are protected from harm and relieved of fear, that they have safe access to services, and that their rights as human beings are fully respected. These are major responsibilities we take seriously for people caught in the crisis and savagery of war.
A group of people whose vulnerability is often forgotten is the elderly. We take special care to pay attention to them. For us, all our protection programs start with relationships and putting the last, first.
The most vulnerable members of a group – like children and the elderly – provide a focal point for the community to organize around. By orienting ourselves around their needs, viewpoints, and abilities – we ensure that the least and the last aren’t forgotten.
By putting them in the center, they’re more protected from abuse, have easier access to services, and aren’t left alone in the chaos of war.
Old But Gold is a mentoring group we started for the elderly, led by our mentorship team in Syria. It's focused on protecting the elderly and forming friendships. It also gives young people space in which to relate to the older generation.
The relationship fabric of families and communities gets ripped apart in war. Grandpa and Grandma don’t live right beside us anymore. But we can still help restore people to community life through relationships with "adopted" grandmas and grandpas.
Old But Gold also provides a pathway for the elderly to continue helping their communities. Our roles in our families and communities change throughout our life. Honoring each stage of life is key to a healthy and loving community. A sense of worth and belonging is essential for all of us.
There are so many ways for elderly community members to contribute, even if they aren't very mobile. One of the most powerful things an adult can do for a child is read to them or tell stories to them. This is especially important for Syrian children, many of whom have been out of school for many years.
In the words of one of our Old But Gold members, “Once I felt I was not really present, not visible. Now I am very much present and actively caring for others who have lost so much.”
Young, old, and every age in between – with us, everyone is gold!