The Children of Syria
A Generation Without a Home
Best known for his portrayal of Legolas in the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit franchises, for over a decade Orlando Bloom has entertained audiences with his Hollywood heroics. However, when this award-winning actor isn’t fighting the battle of good and evil on the silver screen, he’s working alongside UNICEF (The United Nations Children’s Fund) to help improve the lives of real families around the globe.
Becoming an official Goodwill Ambassador for the UNICEF in 2009, Orlando Bloom has travelled to disaster stricken communities all over the world in hopes of raising awareness and rallying much needed humanitarian relief. Most recently, Bloom has joined UNICEF in their mission to support children and families impacted by the Syrian crisis.
Before the war, Syria was a middle-income country, providing a decent living for most of its people. Now in the fifth year of conflict, more than half of all Syrians have been forced to leave their homes and four in five people live in extreme poverty. In fact, 16.2 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance inside and outside the country, including 7.6 million children. Neighbouring countries are also suffering the dire consequences of this humanitarian crisis, with the influx of over four million refugees.
In September of this year, Bloom travelled to the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and met children at a refugee and migrant reception centre near Gevgelija. He listened to stories of their perilous journeys, their concerns and hopes for the future. Many of them have escaped violence in Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq.
Tarek, 17, from Syria was among the many children and young people Bloom met. He spoke about the terror of the boat trip from Turkey to Greece and about the pain of leaving his entire family in Damascus. Like many unaccompanied minors on the move in Europe, he is travelling with another Syrian family he met after saving their ten year old daughter Yaraman from drowning during the journey. While Tarek praised the humanity of the support staff at the child friendly space to Bloom, he also expressed his deep distress and despair of not knowing what the future holds for him.
“These children have travelled through one of the deadliest refugee and migrant routes in the world. I talked to children who endured terrifying journeys, often in extreme weather conditions and for many, walking in the only shoes and clothes they have. They are being shuttled from one authority to another, crossing numerous borders, uncertain of the risks ahead. If they arrive safely at their final destination, they still fear an uncertain future. We need to protect and support them,” Bloom said.
UNICEF is working tirelessly to ensure children like Tarek regain their sense of security both in the warzone in Syria, as well as outside in the surrounding countries in host communities and camps and in Europe. From providing vaccinations and access to safe drinking water and sanitation to offering temporary learning spaces and much needed psychosocial support, UNICEF is fighting for a brighter future for displaced Syrian families.
The reception centre near Gevgelija is a shining example of how positive change can happen. Thanks to UNICEF, thousands of children at this location now have access to a safe place to rest, play and receive food and water, warm clothes, sanitation and the hygiene and protection services that they need.
But this battle is far from over. UNICEF estimates that as many as 320,000 women and children fleeing to Europe could be in need to assistance over the next six months and many more are still uncertain of what their future holds in the long term.
UNICEF needs your help to continue their life-saving work. Visit unicef.ca/ to donate.
Bloom has supported UNICEF since 2007, when he first visited schools in the remote western districts of Kaski and Chitwan, two of the poorest areas of Nepal. He spoke about the importance of education and he was able to see how UNICEF’s water and sanitation programmes benefit local families.
In 2008, Bloom visited Nepal again to see how UNICEF and its partners are providing clean water for children and families. He also visited the Krasnoselsky centre in Moscow, a shelter for children from economically vulnerable families. In addition, when he was in Sarajevo he paid a visit to the local UNICEF group to see firsthand the situation of children in the country.
In October 2009 Bloom was appointed as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador.
In 2012, the actor met with children and youth in Cape Town, South Africa. While there he learned more about the lives of at risk kids and how UNICEF assisted programs are helping to provide safe areas for them to play and participate in recreational activities after school.
In 2014, Bloom travelled to Jordan to meet children and families whose lives have been devastated by the Syrian conflict. In Za’atari, Bloom visited a UNICEF-supported school that lends the children a sense of normalcy to lives that are far from normal.
In March 2015, Bloom went on a four-day visit to Liberia for the Ebola emergency. Bloom observed how the Ebola school safety protocols that were introduced with UNICEF support at a primary school on the border with Sierra Leone, and how these efforts are helping to reduce the risk of transmission.