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Making a house a home again: Om Karam’s Story 


March 15, 2022 • 4 min read

As the conflict in Syria continues, 11 years of war have left deep scars on communities and families. Families like Om Karam's*  

An “Unbearable hell” 

Om Karam’s family of 15; including her husband Khaled, 5 children, 3 daughters in law and 5 grandchildren; have been living in a rundown house in Darkoush town in Syria’s Idleb province since the war began.  

“A safe shelter is no less important for life than food and water,” says the 55-year-old  Om Karam. “These difficult times; living with scorpions, with rodents and insects sharing in our daily affairs; taught us the real meaning of this saying,” she continues.  

“We suffered from stray dogs coming into our house every day, through the broken doors, snakes slipping through the many cracks that filled the walls, terrifying my grandchildren. All this turned our lives into an unbearable hell.”  

GOAL Shelter Engineer Zahraa assesses the walls in Om Karam’s house

The Syrian conflict has left Om Karam and millions of parents like her struggling to provide for their families. Before the conflict, the family lived on the modest wage Om Karam’s husband made as a daily laborer. Unfortunately, her husband has fallen ill, leaving Om Karam to provide for the family. She strives to make ends meet by gathering wild thyme in the nearby mountains to sell in the village market. But not nearly enough to pay for the essential repairs her home has long needed.     

A war with no end in sight 

Hundreds of thousands have been killed in the conflict. More than 100,000 are missing or forcibly disappeared and over 22 million have been displaced since the beginning of the war in 2012. According to UN, the poverty rate in Syria is at an unprecedented 90 percent with 14.6 million people depending on humanitarian aid. 

Increased displacement in the region has left affordable accommodation in low supply. And forced Om Karam’s family to live in a crowded, crumbling home. Two members her family suffer from physical and mental disabilities, putting further strain on resources. Despite this Om Karam still has the kindness and compassion to open their home to others. Along with her sons and her grandchildren, Om Karam has also been raising Ali, a six-year-old boy from the village who was orphaned by the conflict.  

“Three families in a deserted, cave-like house,” says Om Karam. “What made matters worse were the medical issues my son and my grandson have had, which imposed on us very burdensome additional treatment costs and expensive medicines,” she explains.  

Support families in Syria

Providing shelter to families in Syria 

GOAL teams in Syria are working with hundreds of families like Om Karam’s to refurbish their houses and restore their homes. Safe, clean drinking water have also been returned in their homes. Homes which have been made accessible for disabled family members. 

GOAL Shelter Engineer Zahraa* oversaw the restoration of Om Karam’s home, “The repairs provide families not simply with a proper roof or robust doors and windows, but protection from the harsh local weather conditions and from risks such as insects, mice, and dogs,” she says. 

“Shelter is vital for survival, especially in times of crisis and displacement. But a habitable, properly fitted home is essential for restoring a sense of personal security, self-sufficiency and dignity,” Zahraa adds.  

GOAL has been responding to humanitarian needs in Syria since late 2012. Our teams are currently reaching around 1,5 million conflict-affected, vulnerable people, helping deliver clean piped water, providing cash-based and in-kind food security assistance, shelter support, nutrition aid, as well as emergency relief. 

In the house, GOAL Shelter Engineer Zahraa plays with Om Karam’s grandchild

Revived hopes  

Om Karam is grateful for the support provided by Zahraa and her team, “GOAL has always touched the dreams of the vulnerable people, whether by providing food and clean water or cash, and now shelter support for people who have lost peace of mind, safety, and the privacy of a decent life. It has revived their hopes and alleviated their misery,” Om Karam says. 

“We now enjoy the comfort of dividing the house into separate rooms with windows and doors instead of curtains. We have a water tank, a tap, and a bathroom inside. Our lives have become more protected.”  

“The word ‘thanks’ is not enough. We are unable to offer words of praise to all those who contributed to this wonderful work,” Om Karam says.  

GOAL has been responding to humanitarian needs in Syria since late 2012. Our teams are currently reaching around 1.5 million conflict-affected, vulnerable people, helping deliver clean piped water and providing cash-based and in-kind food security assistance, shelter support, nutrition aid, and emergency relief.

You can support GOAL’s work in Syria with a donation today.

*Names of interviewees’ in this story were changed to protect their identity.