Put Your Coffee Down and Do It


So. About Aleppo. About the city in Syria. Yes, I know it’s far away; yes, I know we have Christmas and Trump and road tolls to think about here. Yes, I know we’ve been distracted by the shitshow that the United States has become, and that is a big worry. And we have rent to pay, or mortgages, and sick pets, and squabbles with co-workers, and then of course it’s winter and it’s cold again. The nerve of it, getting cold. We have to wear scarves, and stomp our feet to keep them warm as we wait for that stupid bus in the morning rush-hour dawn.

So it’s understandable that we haven’t been paying much attention to Aleppo. Admit it. We haven’t. Trump has had us by the lapels, shouting and spitting in our faces, for months, and he’s a very large distraction. Everywhere we North Americans look, there’s a Trump-shaped horror show partially blocking our vision, like a big orange cataract. So many of us who are generally inclined to concern ourselves with the world’s problems – and to be compelled at least partly by a desire to help and protect other beings – have been negligent about Aleppo. Maybe it’s because the United States is both close by, and an easy target for our concern. And maybe it’s because we feel we Canadians have done enough. Admit it. Maybe we feel we’re already on this Syria thing. After all, a year ago our Mr. Sparkle Doll of a Prime Minister tearfully welcomed Syrian refugees at various airports across Canada. We were justifiably proud at the time.

We can’t be so proud anymore.

I won’t get into the details of what’s going on in Aleppo, but I can assure you that right at this moment, welcoming Syrian refugees is (although important) peripheral. If you haven’t managed to notice what is going on in Aleppo at this very moment, just Google it. It’s like an end-of-the-world video game written by some sadist who gives even-sicker gamers extra points for blowing up hospitals full of civilians. They are using chlorine bombs on civilians. You sip your coffee, they get barrel-bombed. You wait for the bus, they get shot in the streets while fleeing – while pushing their baby stroller and carrying whatever they could save from their homes, in shopping bags from the mall, trying to get across town while their government fires on them.

As of this writing, it’s changing by the minute – changing for the worst – and is little more than a slaughter. But we can help. We have to try. And yes, there are other tragedies unfolding in the world, and no, we can’t fix everything. So what. Stop making excuses for not helping, for not trying. People – civilian people, people who have rent to pay and co-worker squabbles and sick pets – are being bombed out of their houses. Their city – formerly one of the most beautiful in the world – is rubble. There are corpses piling up in the streets. Survivors have been using their phones not to call for take-out or to text a meet-up place at the local coffee shop – as they (and we) would normally do in their lives – but to tweet goodbye messages to the world. They are asking why the world has not come to help. They are asking on Twitter, fer fucksake.

And what can we say about that? That we didn’t know it was all that bad? That we didn’t know there was anything we can do? That we were busy?

Fair enough that we feel helpless. Fair enough that we think our government is looking after this (it isn’t doing enough). So let’s just deal with those two things: first of all, we’re not helpless. Money can help. So send money. Yes, you do too have $5 you can give to the White Helmets, or the IRC, or any of the other agencies who are front-line helping. Some of them have workers who are physically dragging people out of the rubble (true: look it up). So get out your wallet and give some money to Medecins sans Frontiers. I bet most of you have more than $5. If you do, give it to them. Buy Aunt Sadie a slightly smaller present and give the rest of the money to an agency. Or give all of Aunt Sadie’s present money to an agency and tell  her that’s what you got  her for Christmas.

The second thing to do is email our government. Now. You’re already on the freaking computer, so just do it. Here’s the link. Look up your MP. No, do not say that’s too much trouble. People are dying. Do it. Write the word “Aleppo” in the subject line, and say, “I’m horrified by what’s happening in Aleppo. Please advise me of exactly what steps the Canadian government is taking.” They get enough emails, they worry about their jobs. They say, “oh, look, Canadians care about those people in Aleppo.” And sometimes they do something. 

There’s other things we can do but at this moment let’s just do those two things: 1. Give some money. 2. Write a politician.

This is happening on our watch, and we’re not watching. Do something. Do it NOW.


54 thoughts on “Put Your Coffee Down and Do It

  1. Barb

    Great blog Diane. CBC had several chilling interviews this am, from people on the ground there. Tune in everyone, as Diane says, give. It’s what we need to do. We’re human, lets remember that.

  2. Claire

    This is magnificent.
    You have made me accountable as a human being.
    I watched The White Helmets doc on Netflix and was so moved. I have sent them money and emailed my MP

    And shared this in social media.

    A deeply, profoundly, thank you.

    • Thank you for donating and fur doing something. I don’t know about you but I feel totally helpless. Maybe as time goes by there will be more we can do than just write letters and throw money, but for the time being, that’s what we’ll do.

      • As I mentioned to my friends – humanity might suck, but we ourselves don’t have to. Thanks for motivating people to action, Diane.

  3. Also write letters to your MP. It doesn’t even require a stamp and MPs take letters far more seriously than an email because it takes more effort. A letter is equal to 100 phone calls which is equal to 100 emails. You do the math

  4. Avril

    Thank you for what you wrote. It seems like no matter where we turn right now, we stare into the apocalypse. Like you, I feel so helpless. But I just donated to the White Helmets, shared your post on social media, and will send a letter to my MP just now. I hope there will be more we can do very soon.

  5. Morgan

    Red Cross + IRC – check
    MP – check

    And now what are those “other things”? Resettling refugees in the community? Do you know of specific international actions that we should urge our government to support?

    • That’s exactly the problem. There seem to be so few really specific things we can do. But take a Google on the subject of things you can do about Syria and things you can do about Aleppo, and there are some helpful lists. But frankly, some of them are along the lines of printing up posters and putting them up around your neighborhood just to raise awareness. The situation is that desperate.

    • I’m not preying on anything. And you are promoting a political agenda. There are lots of controversies out there including about the white helmets and others, including Doctors Without Borders. I don’t care if they’re the devil incarnate at this point they are getting in there and digging people out with their bare hands. I don’t care about the politics behind it which I did read up on. They are physically in there helping. And if you don’t like that, if you’re free not to give them any money. But don’t tell me I’m preying on anybody. Preying indicates that I have a hidden agenda. I don’t. I just can’t dig out any bodies myself. And these agencies are doing that. I don’t have the time and I’m not in the mood to mess with somebody who wants to start a Facebook or blog argument. Go do something useful.

  6. Sharon Bellchambers

    Thank you for getting me off my ass and doing something. A lot of good my sympathy and disgust were doing….now I’ve done something thanks to you.

  7. Thank you so much for doing this. For writing this. For making it easier to not toss up my hands in despair. I emailed my MP. I donated. I shared it all freaking over the place on social media. Thanks for making it accessible and brass tacks. You made a huge difference today.

  8. Thanks for the excellent blog. I have been sharing the horrors of Aleppo on my Facebook page but I really didn’t know what I could do to help. Thanks for making it very clear. I wrote my MP and donated to the IRC. I also shared this blog on my Facebook. It doesn’t seem like much but it is certainly better than nothing.

  9. kd kahoot

    This was in my feed today, and I am grateful I read it. We are all sickened at the horrors happening in Syria–almost to the point of feeling powerless to change anything, I think. This really pushed me to ACT. I donated (it took 4 minutes), and then posted on facebook with a “stocking challenge”–I asked that my facebook friends forego the silly plastic junk that gets bought for stockings, and instead invest in safety equipment for the White Helmets. (Every $5 helps.) Thank you for the nudge.

  10. Hannah

    PLEASE do not encourage people to donate to the White Helmets. Do a bit of research and you will realize that they are an illegitimate group funded by the US and UK governments who are politically and financially invested in regime change in Syria – this is what started the entire mess that we see today. I support your effort to bring awareness and encourage people to help, but PLEASE edit your article to include some REAL GRASSROOTS ORGANIZATIONS IN SYRIA that are genuinely helping people, not creating fake news and propaganda.

    • There are a lot of controversial issues surrounding the white helmets. People can do their own research. That’s why I provided two other alternative sources. People can choose what they prefer. The research I did into the white helmets didn’t disclose anything negative that didn’t look to me like badly sourced propaganda. However, people can decide on their own. Just press the button for the IRC or Doctors Without Borders if you don’t want to donate to the white helmets. I did not approve your second comment because it was repetitive and I’m not here to make any endorsements of any particular agency. I’m just telling people get off your ass and do something. Because while we are arguing about which group is legitimate and which isnt and how many angels are dancing on the head of a pin, people are dying.

  11. JD

    Thank you for this. I guess I figured I am only one person, what can I do. Now I know. If every “one person” gave even a loonie &/or wrote to their government representative, we might be able to get something done. I pray so.
    Thank you. Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays to our family on earth (& we are all family).

  12. Hi Diane, I loved your piece. It was great, however I just learned something mind-blowing and I wanted to share it with you. Please do not recommend that people donate to the White Helmets. Why? Please watch this, and google truth about the White Helmets. It’s all a guise, a hoax, a scam and they do not deserve our support or donations. I hope you consider making an amendment in your blog post about this discovery. I truly had no idea.

    http://www.globalresearch.ca/syria-and-the-white-helmets-fake-humanitarian-entity-supported-by-us-nato-a-politically-motivated-hoax/5552246 and this piece is only one of many, many sites/articles stating the truth about the white helmets. I thought you should know as well. Thanks for your thoughts however, and the frankness of your words.

    • I’ve been getting a lot of this sort of post about the white helmets. Not one single post has produced anything but unfounded propaganda about the Nobel Prize nominated white helmets. I don’t want to get into an argument with people who don’t know how to look at accurate sources and investigate where something is coming from. If you’re going to make decisions about institutions and organizations and agencies based on unfounded YouTube videos and fake news sites and propaganda news sites, then there’s nothing I can do to school you In how to do a proper investigation of information on the internet. All I can say is then don’t donate to the white helmets if you want to believe this stuff. Donate to one of the other organizations. But don’t believe that stuff about the white helmets until you actually do some research from some accurate reliable unbiased reporting sources. Which is not somebody’s YouTube video.

    • Hi, Eva – I realize my response was overly-firm, but like I said, I keep getting this highly-debunked reference that you’ve cited as if it were valid journalism, and it’s pretty frustrating. If you’ve got a valid source with proper research, please send it along in a comment. In the meantime, here’s one of the fact-checking sites respecting this individual.

  13. karen

    Anyone know a “text to donate” option? I am about to have a pay-as-you-go balance expire, and I would rather send 12 texts to help Aleppo!

  14. In September 2014 I decided I had done enough reading about the tragedy that was Kobani. It was time to stop just reading and writing about it but to get off my but and go. So over the next six months I liquidated all my assets (meaning my furniture, my 1500 book library, my car, my retirement fund, etc) and in the spring of 2015 I found myself in Turkey.
    Now I am in the city of Gaziantep, about 100 kilometers straight north from Aleppo. I am working everyday with refugee kids mostly from Kobani but some are also from Aleppo. Many if not most of the major NGO’s who are trying to make a major impact in Syria are actually based here.

    I say all this not to boast “look what I have done” but so that you can understand I have a good idea what I am talking about when I say this:

    Be very careful who you are giving to and what they are promising. Many groups are using this crisis as the fundraising cash cow that it is. Many of these groups very legitimately could use more funds but the biggest issue right now is not so much the resources but the ability to get those resources to where they are needed. I know people with Doctors without Borders. I was speaking with a friend just last night who was earlier in communication with some guys from IDA. Right now no legitimate group is trying to get the much needed medical supplies into the besieged areas because they know that almost certainly those supplies will end up in the hands of Assad’s forces.

    One day Aleppo will be rebuilt. One day people will return. When that day comes, the need to get supplies into Aleppo will be there. Until that day don’t be suckered into groups promising “a mobile medical unit in Aleppo by Christmas”. Instead focus your much needed giving to groups actively involved in supporting the millions of Syrian refugees in Turkey, Jordan, and Lebanon. That is where most of the fifty thousand the world has seen get on those green busses will most likely end up.

    • Bejai, thanks for your suggestions. Whether aid money given to organizations ever actually reaches the people in need is often a serious and sometimes temporarily insurmountable problem. As someone who is on the ground in Syria, which aid groups would you personally recommend? Thanks for responding.

      • I might be a bit biased but the refugee school I work with is funded through World Relief. They and World Vision are making a great impact on the women and children who have fled especially. Doctors without Borders is IMO the best group providing emergency medical care just know that they like every group can sometimes not get directly to where the world news is focused. Groups like SYAN are often overlooked but their focus on rebuilding a sustainable social infrastructure are doing some great long term good.

        Right now the world is focused on the plight of about fifty thousand refugees. While their needs are drastic and immediate, if trends play out a bit more than half of them will end up among the over 4 million refugees in Turkey, Jordan, and Lebanon. Even though the media will move on to some other “crisis” in a week or two, the needs among these will still be here. Those groups who have proven themselves in these trenches and will continue to do so are where our support most belongs.

  15. That is very helpful information. I will add a link to SYAN which hopefully won’t set off the same storm of hysterical comments, none of which I post, providing russian-backed and false media reports about the white helmets. Nobody has yet sent anything legitimate in terms of criticism of about the white helmets. Anyway I don’t want to get started on that here. I am in awe of your bravery and dedication. You’re an angel on Earth. Please also send the name of your school and if there is a link to information about it and a way to donate that would be helpful too.

  16. robin

    Thanks for this. Agreed, and have donated to both White Helmets and MSF. I just wanted to add that there is also an ongoing need for new private sponsorship groups for refugees, and for volunteers to support government sponsored refugees. The number of new groups forming has declined but the refugee crisis continues, so please consider doing this also if you are able. http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/refugees/sponsor/index.asp

  17. Concerned Citizen

    Excellent blog — except you lost me when you referred to our PM as Mr. Sparkle Doll. You may not like his policies or think our government is doing enough. That’s fine. But there’s no need for personal insults or attacks.

    • A good point. I’m actually very fond of Mr. Trudeau and mean it in an affectionate way. He really is Mr. Sunshine in so many ways. Sorry I lost you. Hope you still donated to someone and wrote to your MP!

  18. Paul

    1 golden rule: Do unto others as you would want them to do unto you.

    2 golden rule: It is more blessed to give than it is to receive.

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