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Why a local doctor feels duty-bound to help Syrian refugees in Jordan

'As humans, we have to do something'
Posted: 1:07 AM, Jul 12, 2017
Updated: 2017-07-12 01:13:00-04
A local doctor's life-saving work with refugees
A local doctor's life-saving work with refugees
A local doctor's life-saving work with refugees

SYMMES TOWNSHIP, Ohio -- Dr. Humam Akbik arrived in Amman, Jordan, this year hoping to give three essential gifts to the Syrian refugees sheltered there: Medicine, education and hope.

"In every person's life, at one point, you feel there is something you can do and you ought to do," he said.

For him, that point was the outbreak of the Syrian civil war, a violent conflict among President Bashar al-Assad and a half-dozen insurgent groups that has forced over 6 million Syrians to flee their homes. They now live in camps scattered across the region.

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The issue is personal for the Akbik family, which has its roots in Damascus, the Syrian capital.

Akbik went to the "village" outside Amman by himself in 2014. Now, the organization he directs, Atlantic Humanitarian Relief, brings surgeons from all over the world to help refugees obtain the medical care many of them desperately need.

"When they saw the magnitude of the problem, they had the same exact feeling I had in 2013," he said. "They said, ‘As humans, we have to do something. We cannot sit idle.'"

The people fleeing the conflict are comparatively lucky, according to Akbik, if they end up in a camp like the one outside Amman. Although they're taking shelter in some of the harshest landscape on the planet and sharing scant resources such as bathrooms among hundreds of people, they've at least escaped the violence in their native country.

For many of the children living here, the village is all they've ever known. Akbik and his colleagues performed more than 100 surgeries on residents of all ages during their most recent trip, but they concentrate additional efforts on helping Syrian children learn to read, access medical care, and -- most importantly -- enjoy life like children all over the world.

A party for the camp's nearly 300 orphans produced some of the most simultaneously uplifting and heartbreaking images of the entire trip: Children in an unimaginably terrifying situation who've been given an opportunity to escape it.

Akbik has made more than a dozen trips to the camp, and he plans to return in November. As long as the need exists, he feels bound by his duty as a doctor and a human being to help.

"When do you stop?" he said. "When do you tell people, 'I'm not going to help you anymore'? Can you look at any of those kids in the eye and tell them, 'This is the last time I'm going to help you'?"

If you would like to contribute to Atlantic Humanitarian Relief, you can do so online.