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Humanitarians Pen Love Letters From the Frontlines for Valentine's Day

By Alaa, Jeldah and Muqatil from the International Rescue Committee.


A lot can be expressed in a letter. It is a message of unity, friendship, and hope for the future, despite the pain of being apart.

On February 14th, thousands of these messages will be sent around the world. For the millions separated by war and displacement, the words may be particularly hard to find.

Three humanitarians from Syria, Kenya and Iraq have shared their messages with us. These are their words.

Read More: From the Frontlines of the Refugee Crisis: An Aid Worker's Perspective


Alaa

Valentines 3.pngPhoto courtesy of IRC

Alaa Khanji, 29, left Aleppo in 2010 to finish his university degree. He has been unable to return home, but his aunt Aisha and cousin Yaseen remain in Syria. They have not seen each other for 7 years. 

Alaa is now a department manager with the IRC in Iraq. 

Dear Aisha and Yaseen, 

I never told you enough how much I love you. I didn’t know that circumstances would separate us for so long. 

I miss you so much. I think of you all the time, especially at breakfast. No matter how many times I prepare the same food, it doesn’t taste the way that it did when you were around. 

I hope that we can be together again soon. I can’t wait to see you, to share bread with you. Please, stay safe. 

Until we meet again. 

I love you,

Alaa

Jeldah 

valentines 2.jpgPhoto courtesy of IRC

Jeldah, from Kenya, is a medical doctor working as a Health Manager with the IRC. He was given an emergency assignment to South Sudan in August 2016 following an outbreak of cholera amid escalating violence. 

Now back in Kenya, he is writing to the people he helped.

Dear friends,

I remember when I was first assigned to South Sudan in August 2016. Whenever I had a chance to spend time with you in your community, we would talk about our pasts and future dreams over a cup of what has become my favourite drink - kerekede. 

Your descriptions of the journeys you made had me awe-stricken. Some of you walked for several days through thicket and forest, finding a place to hide by day and moving by night. For some of you it was a matter of crossing vast swamps and rivers. Reliance on wild fruits and leaves for food was the norm, and water was from the rivers and swamps.

I learned to cherish those moments when I saw our work put a smile on your face. With the language and cultural barriers we may never understand each other to the maximum, but the look in your eyes is enough to tell it all.

In return, I lack words to express how much I value each and every one of you for the life lessons you impart on me. Sometimes I think my heart expands a little more to create space for one more of your stories, and I know it will always have room to expand.

Thank you.

Jeldah

Muqatil

valentines1.jpgPhoto courtesy of IRC

Muqatil Nabil, 31, is from Mosul, Iraq. He left his house in 2014 to escape ISIS, and has not seen his mom since. 

Muqatil is now is the Economic Recovery and Development Acting Manager for the in IRC in Iraq. 

Dear Mom,

Though the passing of time during your absence, I discovered a deep, wrecking void left in my life. I had no rest, no happiness in your absence, not perceived, and not imagined . 

I do not imagine anyone. My heart only beats for your mercy. 

I love you more than I could ever express in a few words. I am eagerly waiting to see you …

Happy Valentine’s Day.

Yours forever,

Muqatil


Over 65 million people are currently displaced from their homes – more than ever before. The International Rescue Committee supports people whose lives and livelihoods are shattered by conflict and disaster to survive, recover and gain control of their future.

To find out more about the crises in Syria, South Sudan and Iraq, visit the IRC website at www.rescue-uk.org.