01/16/2014 09:09 EST | Updated 03/18/2014 05:59 EDT

Montrealer packs up for Syrian refugee camp

Syrian-Montrealer Faisal Alazem is packing his bags to spend some time at a Syrian refugee camp.

Alazem leaves Montreal Friday, and he’ll be staying at a refugee camp in Rehanyeh, Turkey for nine days.

“From a humanitarian perspective, there is so much that needs to be done,” Alazem said.

The UN estimates there are more than five-hundred-thousand Syrian refugees have fled to Turkey since the armed conflict erupted in Syria.

“For the majority of Syrian-Canadians, our lives have shifted 180 degrees since the killing and the bloodspill in Syria. Everything has changed,” Alazem said.

Alazem left Syria ten years ago, and now lives in Montreal working as an engineer.

He says his deep connection to his birth country is what motivated him to go back.

“We are far away from Syria, but yet we are so attached. You cannot turn a [blind] eye — you see the school you went to destroyed, the people you have known are either dead or detained. The emotional connection is there,” Alazem said.

After a certain amount of time, you feel disconnected, and you need to be there. You need to be close to the reality and to the suffering.”

Alazem says his goal is to connect with the young Syrian refugees.

“Just to be around the children, it means so much to them. It means the world to them because it’s an indication that they haven’t been abandoned.”

Connecting with students

Alazem will be spending time at a school in Turkey that was started by Montrealer Hazar Al-Mahayni​. There, he says he hopes to volunteer to teach English as a second language and interact with the children.

“I will try to give them a good time, bringing them gifts and buying them clothes as well.”

Al-Mahayni is the vice-principal of École Al-Salam in Montreal, and she opened up a school of the same name in Turkey.

“The children need to feel that somebody cares about them — that somebody loves them. It’s not only with food or with clothes that you save anybody’s life, or with medication. Sometimes when you open a window for a future — a better future — that’s how you save lives,” Al-Mahayni said.

Pushing the Canadian government

Alazem says he will document his nine-day trip, and hopes to share the refugees’ stories with members of the Canadian government  — to show officials what Canadians are doing to help, and how much more needs to be done in Syria.

“My message to the Canadian government is to try to cooperate with Syrian-Canadians living here that have all these initiatives — that are inside Syria, building field hospitals, volunteering there, and building schools. Syrian-Canadians are connected.”