As a pediatrician, I had to learn I couldn’t save all the children in the world. I could only concentrate on the one in front of me. Now that I am retired, the children of Syria are calling to me. What on God’s green earth are we to do about them?
Nothing, it seems.
Even the pictures of the “sleeping” toddler on the beach, Aylan Kurdi, as well as the video of Omran, sitting bloodied in an ambulance, fail to elicit more than a heartfelt, “Awww.”
Look at Aylan’s face. He is well and truly dead. He looks a lot like one of my grandsons. Look again. Look until it really hurts. And if you don’t hurt, you aren’t really human.
In the latest barrel bomb attacks on Aleppo, people were poisoned by chlorine gas, the simple byproduct of mixing ammonia and bleach. The littlest suffer the most for a variety of reasons. Chlorine gas is a greenish yellow fog that’s heavier than air, so is sticks low to the ground — where the children are.
We need to get those kids out of there.
During WWII, English children were evacuated from London. The English understood that, without kids, there is no future. Children left London with hang tags around their necks, or on their baby baskets. It wasn’t perfect, but it worked. Most importantly, the bombs that killed 32,000 Londoners didn’t kill their children.
I have a relatively simple idea. Set up a temporary foster program for Syrian children in first world countries. Technology makes it a snap, not a snafu. It can also be a template for evacuating children from other war zones.
During a cease fire, willing parents bring their children to a designated “Safe Child Zone.” Microchip every child and his willing family members. photograph them and take electronic their fingerprints. I’d say take a swab for DNA, but there’s no place on a database for a Q-tip. Match them up with a willing foster family. Transport them to the closest safe airport where airlines would gladly give the kids a seat (and take a tax deduction for it.)
Set up a portal for parents/foster parents to communicate. Have adults establish passwords; at the other end, have foster parents do the same. Give everyone a unique email address, so they can communicate from a cyber cafe as soon as parents find safety. Language barrier? Not with email there isn’t — you can use a translation feature.
Background check foster parents in the US or other first world countries. Police can do this with a computer search. The foster parents would offer to take children until things settle down. Yes, someone will have to check how things are going, but I’d volunteer to do something like that. So would others who have experience with children.
These foster placements could occur in Europe, the US, Canada, wherever people are willing to pitch in. If the family is of the same culture or religion, great. If not, well, that’s okay too. Formalities such as passports/visas would be expedited by the receiving country, as the Syrian government isn’t going to help.
Houston took in 250,000 refugees from Katrina with 24 hours notice. They’ll share their playbook. Streamline entry procedures.If every child does the same entry process, life gets simpler. Lost your glasses? No problem. Bombs ruined your ears? Here’s a hearing aid. Oh, and don’t forget a lovey, whether it is a teddy bear or a wooly lamb. Just no stuffed pigs please.
Not only would this help in Syria, but it could be a template for evacuating children from war zones anywhere. I envision airlines volunteering seats, insurance companies offering to add the kids to the foster parents policy — without hassle. A computer company would offer the tech assistance. It’s the best public relations in the world.
American history is stained in places. We should have taken in the Jews trying to flee Hitler. This time, let’s rise to the challenge of at least saving the kids. Look again at Aylan’s face.
Moving around thousands of children internationally is a piece of cake with today’s technology.
The hardest part is a cease fire.