Please welcome founder and CEOof CanDo, Dr. Rola Hallam.
-♪ -(cheering and applause)
Welcome to the show.
Hi. Thank you for inviting me.
Um, your story is one
that is gripping, painful, andhopeful all at the same time.
-You are a physicianwho's based in London. -Mm-hmm.
You've been involvedin global health care for...
-I think it's about 14 yearsnow. -Mm-hmm.
And you actually spent partof your childhood
-growing up in Syria.-Yeah.
When you look at the...
the civil warthat's taking place there now,
from a health care pointof view,
-from an aid-giver's pointof view, -Mm-hmm.
what is the situation?
Sure. So, before that, if I may,
I think one of the things thathas done the Syria, um, crisis
such a-a disfavoris calling it a civil war.
Because, actually,this isn't half the population
-killing the other half.-Right.
What we have isa state-sponsored murder
and oppression that wasin response to people going out
on the street callingfor freedom and dignity.
-And so it's actually a waron civilians. -Right.
And it's a waron civilian structures.
And it's had, at its heart,the targeting of doctors
and aid workers and health care.
And you guys knowall about presidents trying
-to destroy health care, right?-(chuckling)
I mean, it's... You-you...
-It's a big problem.-Yeah, I mean, for-for Syrians,
they would wishit would be just in the Senate
-and people arguing about it,you know? -Absolutely.
In-in Syria,you've had a situation
where Bashar al-Assadhas been shown repeatedly
to indiscriminately attackmedical facilities.
-Yeah.-What does that do?
And what do you thinkthe purpose of those attacks
-have been?-Mm-hmm. Well, I mean,
Physicians for Human Rightshave been documenting this
since the beginningof-of the war in 2011.
They've documentednearly 500 attacks
on-on health...on health care facilities.
Some of them are indiscriminate,but, actually, they say
that this has been partof a systemic, um,
attack on health careand-and murder
and tortureof-of health care workers--
so actually using itas a weapon of war.
-And it's decimatedour health care system. -Right.
And that basically meansthat we've got children
who are dyingfrom preventable diseases
like pneumoniaor treatable diseases.
It's women who are now givingbirth without health care,
um, attendants. It meanswe don't have the anesthesia
that we needto-to perform surgery.
And, you know what, this is,like, such a big problem
for all of us, right. This isn'tjust a problem for Syria.
And by that I mean that thetargeting of health care work
is... like-like,this is protected
-by international norms, right?-Uh-huh.
And-and when we allow thatto occur,
then, actually, when it breaksfor one, it breaks for all.
Does that meanthat your health care facilities
will now be a legitimate targetin any war
-that you may be involved in?-Right.
Like, it's a really dangerousprecedent to set, right?
Um, and the fact that it'sdestroying our health care means
that we're going to becomelike Liberia and Sierra Leone.
We're going to becomeexporters of disease.
And-and virusesdon't know borders, right?
It-it ends up being a problemthat affects the world
-when it could have been stoppedin one place. -Absolutely.
-When you returned in 2011...-Mm.
...you went back to Syriaand this was when
-the crisis was kick off.-Yeah.
And you-you helped.
-You know, you turned a houseinto an aid depot. -Mm.
And you were going to helpwith people donating blood,
-and-and you realized thatthat wasn't enough. -Mm-hmm.
Why wasn't it enough and whatdid you then decide the do?
Right, so I think,in every crisis,
the first responders are thepeople who are affected, right?
-It's the affected community.-Mm-hmm.
And so, my familylike many others,
turned our housesinto warehouses
that we could distributethis aid from.
But then, as the crisis grew,
and it engulfedthe whole country,
it sure became apparent,
like, these little effortswere-were no longer sufficient.
So we coalesced, and we startedto form new charities.
Um, and actually,it's the local humanitarians,
it's the local doctors,nurses and aid workers
that do the majorityof the aid work in Syria.
-Right.-Um, so, um,
a group called"Local to Global" said
that 75% of the humanitarianwork in Syria is being done
-by Syrian charities, right?-Which...
75%. Like,people don't know that, right?
You think of the United Nations.
I mean, that's amazing.
-And the big charities.-But you wish
that the outside would help,as well, but I mean,
that is an amazing statwhen you think about it.
Well, it's amazing,but what's really more amazing,
but in a very bad way,is the fact
that we get lessthan one percent
of the humanitarian aid budget.
-Yeah, I know.Look at your face. -Wow.
I know. I know.
You would think for a crisisthat affects the world,
more would be done, more peoplewould be getting involved.
Um, you're working to help now.
-You've started, um,working to rebuild... -Mm-hmm.
...some of the hospitalsthat have been destroyed.
I remember reading and seeingone of the stories was,
-a children's hospitalthat was attacked. -Yes.
You were involvedin rebuilding that.
How did you go about that?Where do you even start?
Um, you start with a weekendof nearly pulling your hair out
and feeling really frustratedand angry
that this is still happening.
Because that weekendin Eastern Aleppo,
-five hospitals were bombed outof existence that weekend. -Wow.
Includingthe children's hospital.
Imagine, it had been bombedsix times before.
A children's hospital, and...
-So this was the seventh timeit was bombed? -Yeah.
And so, I was...I was so livid and furious.
We had been spendingthe last few years rebuilding...
And built six... helped to buildsix hospitals in Syria.
And so, I wanted to do something
that everyone elsecould get behind,
'cause I knew that there wereso many people
-who were feelingthis frustration. -Yeah.
And that was howthe people's convoy idea came.
Um, we planned,um, to crowdfund,
to rebuildan entire children's hospital,
and we wanted to do itin the week before Christmas,
in ten days, and we wantedto take the whole equipment
for the hospital across...from London across to Europe
to Syria, and we did that.
-5,000 peoplefrom around the world. -Wow.
-Wow. -It wasn't...it wasn't... it wasn't just me.
You know, this was, like,
literallya global collective effort.
It was, um, 30 organizationsthat came together
to endorse the campaign,
and it was 5,000 peoplefrom ten countries,
-Mm-hmm.-raised $320,000 in 12 days.
Um, enough to rebuildthe hospital
and keep it goingfor six months.
Um, it just... it just goesto show how much we can achieve
when we... when we...when we work together
and when we can channelthese emotions that we have
-in a positive, proactive way.-If people are looking
to do that--I know people feel hamstrung.
They go: We've talkedto our politicians,
it doesn't seem likethere is going to be much
in the way of action-- you know,
whether it be the U.S. andRussia agreeing into a ceasefire
or not a ceasefire--what is the thing
that people can doto help on the ground,
if they are not connectedto Syria directly like you are.
Sure. I mean, you know,like, at CanDo we believe
people arethe biggest superpower,
um, and we just need to havea way in which we can harness
that collective energyand resources,
and that's whywe're using crowdfunding,
and we've just set upa crowdfunding platform,
the first one to providehumanitarian aid in war zones.
Um, and we're callingall of you,
the engaged citizensof the world,
the global humanitarians,and through this platform
we're gonna connect you to localhumanitarian organizations
working in war zones, um,so that you guys can know
exactly whereyour money is going
and you can trustthat it's going
to these trusted, impactfullocal humanitarian organizations
so that we can togetherprovide this health care
and save many more lives.
Um, and I thinkthat's the way to do it,
because, um, the big NGO'sare so bureaucratic
-Right.-and so slow to move,
and they make us feelreally detached from the issues,
right, and it feels reallydisengaging and disempowering
to just hand your money overand you've no idea
-where it goes. -And thiswhere you can directly connect.
Absolutely.And you can... this way,
you can connect,but you can also choose
which projectyou want to support.
So, you know, the beautyof local humanitarians
is they know the communitiesreally, really well,
and they know what's neededand how to get it there,
and they're creative,because they're the ones
who are there in the most need.
So, to give you an example,there's a ceasefire
across much of Syria,but there are still--
and people don't know this--about a million people
who are besieged-- literally,like a medieval siege tactic,
being slowly starved to death.
And so besieged Damascusis one of these areas
where there'sabout 400,000 people
being slowly starved to death.
So one of our local partnershas been working
over the last couple of yearsto grow mushrooms,
which we callthe "meat of the poor."
And so they've been workingto see if they can...
-they can get themto germinate and grow. -Wow.
And they've managed to do that,so one of the campaigns
we're currently running,um, for--
imagine, just less than $15,000is gonna feed 800 people,
-in a sustainable way.-Right.
They're gonna teach them howto grow their own mushrooms,
so that they can feed themselves
when there is no otherfresh food source there.
So, they really have gotthat ability
to provide somethingreally effective
and really efficient, um,and I think that's the way
that we can all make adifference to people in crisis.
Well, thank youfor sharing that with us.
-Thank you so much for beingon the show. -Thank you.
For more information aboutDr. Hallam's work in Syria,
go to CanDoAction.org.
Dr. Rola Hallam, everybody.