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Saving Syrian Children

PromoCares Story - Phil Koosed, BAMKO

4/6/2018 | PromoCares Contributing Author, PromoCares

I remember the exact moment when my wife Tamar and I decided to act. We had just put our two young sons to bed and stumbled upon a story about the countless number of children who were suffering and dying in the Syrian civil war. Something about that moment stuck with us — suddenly, we realized that mere fortune of circumstance was all that separated our children from the unspeakable horrors being visited upon the children of Syria. Our research into the conflict led to an epiphany - a genocide was unfolding in our time and it was all right there in front of us. If we were going to ignore it, we would be making an intentional choice to do so.  We were not willing to make that choice. So, we chose to lean in. 

Tamar and I are both very connected to our Jewish heritage. We grew up with stories of relatives who perished in the Holocaust, constantly reminded of the refrain, “never again.” It was imprinted on us that we do not stand idly by in the face of genocide. It is our moral imperative to take action and protect the innocent. None are more innocent than children whose lives and limbs are being torn apart by war. We wept at the tortured sights and sounds of their suffering. We looked into their sunken eyes and angst-ridden faces and we could see the impact of evil. It was an evil that we would give anything to protect our own children from. Children need to be protected. We had to act. 

We started connecting over Twitter and WhatsApp with volunteers, doctors, and humanitarians who were risking everything to help save and protect the innocent civilians trapped in the middle of this horrible conflict. We would see instantaneous video and images of a genocide unfolding before our very eyes. We made treasured friends halfway around the world. We lost some of those friends, their lights extinguished by the sweeping winds of war. 

Tamar and I started Save the Syrian Children to address a need that wasn’t being met. With tons of help from the incredibly brave humanitarians on the ground in war-torn Syria, we developed a supply chain that delivers life-saving medical supplies to the areas around Idlib and Aleppo being bombarded by the Syrian regime. We developed a supply route all the way from the shipping port in China to distribution centers on the ground in Syria. We worked with the Turkish government, who allow us to transport our goods from the Port of Mersin to the Syrian border, all without paying any duties. We have a network on the ground of over 50 hospitals that now receive regular shipments of the precise medical supplies that they need to save lives. We have a daily call to understand the evolving conditions on the ground and calibrate our supplies to the needs of the doctors and hospitals we work with. Since 2016, we’ve delivered hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of supplies valued in the tens of millions of dollars. Along the way, our industry has been incredibly supportive, with a number of suppliers generously donating clothing and money.  

We do all of this with absolutely zero overhead. Every dollar we have raised, every donation we have received, has gone directly to the purchase and distribution of life-saving medical supplies. It is an application of aggressively entrepreneurial principals to a world of non-profit that all too often finds itself mired in waste and inefficiency. We refuse to allow our good intentions be diluted by waste and inefficiency. We think it’s a great model for maximizing humanitarian impact. 

The real story here is not about the nature of evil or the suffering it inflicts on the innocent. There has always been evil. There will always be evil. What we do about it, that is what matters. Our journey with Save the Syrian Children has revealed to me a generosity, bravery, and selflessness of the human spirit. At one point in time, I thought I knew what courage meant. I didn’t. The doctors, volunteers, and humanitarians we work with in Syria are not fearless. In fact, they’re terrified. Terrified for themselves, for the children, and for the future of a world capable of such atrocities. But they keep going. They work tirelessly, risking everything in the face of abject horror; plunging themselves headfirst into a cauldron of terror that should be paralyzing. But they keep doing it day after day, no matter what. That’s what heroism looks like. 

Phil Koosed is the President and Founder of Los Angeles-based BAMKO. A proud father and a husband that married way out of his league, Phil is passionate about effective philanthropy. His non-profit organization, Save the Syrian Children, has delivered tens of millions of dollars of life-saving medical supplies to war-torn areas of Syria. Save the Syrian Children is an ongoing experiment in what Phil calls “guerrilla humanitarianism” a no-holds barred, results-obsessed approach to maximum-impact, zero overhead humanitarian aid. 

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