Disaster Relief – Syria Earthquake Update
In February and March of 2023, multiple earthquakes devastated parts of war-torn Syria. In addition to previous shipments of medicines and basic supplies, and with the help of our partners on the ground, in April, we were able to distribute more food parcels and hygiene kits to 255 families and installed emergency lighting for an additional 70 families.
Providing emergency light is critical to assisting those without any power, especially the elderly.
Installing emergency lighting for disaster victims.
Syrian woman recounts her story of surviving a missile attack and the recent earthquake.
Medicines for Children – Lebanon
Now in its third year of devastating economic and political crisis, the people of Lebanon are facing unimaginable levels of suffering while trying to get their hands on life-saving medication. In April 2023, Thanks to our donors, International Relief Teams was able to ship nearly $4 million in essential medicines and medical supplies to several hospitals in Lebanon.
Watch the videos below for heartfelt thanks from the people of Lebanon.
Disaster Relief –Ukraine Update
Since the war in Ukraine began in February 2022, International Relief Teams has provided over $2 million in humanitarian aid and disaster relief to those who need it most in Ukraine and surrounding countries.
Thanks to our generous donors, International Relief Teams also supported an orphanage in Kherson—a city south of the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv—while it was under Russian control, out of the reach of international organizations. It was the heroic efforts of several teachers and administrators in Kherson that kept children in this orphanage safe and out of the hands of Russian forces. See the thank you letter below.
Sri Lanka - This past year, Sri Lanka faced the worst economic crisis since its independence in 1948. Millions of people faced shortages in food, fuel, cooking gas, and medicines—creating a humanitarian emergency in which poverty rates doubled, and 28% of the population struggled with inadequate food supplies and hunger. International Relief Teams responded by shipping emergency food to food distribution centers for children. Thanks to our generous donors, 132,722 meals have been provided.
Our partner, Community Concern – Sri Lanka,was able to serve lentils and nutritional meals to 180 children who live below the poverty line every weekday in their feeding program.
New Homes, New Beginnings (Tijuana,Mexico)
In March, a new home was built for the Isaba-Martinez family. Here’s their story.
“¿Está casa es para nosotros?” (Is this house for us?), asked 8-year-old Ailani as she was helping a volunteer paint the house. The resulting ‘Si’ brought wonder into her eyes, anticipating the memories that would be made in the beautiful, yellow house.
Ailani’s parents, Monica, and Alfonso were both bornin Tijuana, but met years later in Rosarito. The anticipation of a new life and opportunities for their children came with barriers. “Like many of those who live in this colonia, we still do not have basic services – such as electricity and water. The dust and water get in through the holes in the roof and walls,”Monica explained. “I would be very grateful if you could help us because we need it, not only for ourselves, but for our small children.”
On March 18th, eleven volunteers from Ascension Church and five skilled construction volunteers from International Relief Teams made that wish a reality. Alfonso worked alongside the volunteers putting up the roof, while Ailani, Jesus, age 4, and Habran , age 3, helped paint their new home and outhouse.
At the end of the day, Deacon Jim Scull blessed the home with prayers of love, joy, and comfort for all the years to come. Today, the Isaba-Martinez family is in a safe home and looking forward to a brighter future.
With the help of our donors, International Relief Teams was able to rush urgently needed supplies to assist families affected by the Turkey-Syria Earthquakes. This generous support has helped fulfill basic, daily needs by providing food, water, blankets, medicines and emergency provisions. Below, we've shared videos and images from our efforts in Turkey and Syria. While the backdrop may be rubble and destruction, relief and gratefulness can be seen on the faces of those helped by our generous donors.
Medicines for Children (Syria)
Since 2019, International Relief Teams has been working with partners on the ground to provide hospitals with life-saving medicines and medical supplies for the children and innocent civilians affected by the civil war. The most vulnerable families are also assisted through International Relief Teams’ funding of programs that provide food, water,sanitation, and hygiene.
A shipment had just been delivered prior to the devastating earthquakes. Another $4 million in medicines is on its way.
On Monday, February 6, massive earthquakes struck south-eastern Turkey, near the Syrian border. With thousands of people dead or injured, International Relief Teams has rushed urgently needed food, water, blankets, and emergency supplies to assist families whose lives were so tragically shattered. Unfortunately, just two weeks later the situation worsened with a third earthquake and the number of casualties and injured people has increased. We have already sent emergency medical supplies to Idlib,Syria. But much more is needed.
The video below is from our partner, Save the Syrian Children.
(warning: video contains sensitive images that some viewers may find disturbing)
Idlib Hospital, pictured here was completely destroyed by the earthquakes.
International Relief Teams donors have been supplying Syrian hospitals and clinics with medicines since 2019.
(Photo credit: Save the Syrian Children)
To add to the devastation, beginning on March 6, within 24 hours, Syria experienced 5 more quakes with a magnitude of 4.0 and above.Some residents scrambled to find remnants of their lives from between mounds of concrete and mangled metal, others sat atop the rubble of their homes weeping.Today, 2.9 million people in Syria are in desperate need of assistance. Many are living in crowded tent settlements without basic sanitation or in buildings already weakened by past bombings. The quakes have displaced many for a second or third time, forcing them to sleep in the open as temperatures drop below freezing.
Food distribution in Aleppo, Syria after the earthquakes, thanks to International Relief Teams donors.
In May 1991, International Relief Teams staff and construction volunteers started working in San Quintin, Baja California, Mexico. For the next 10 years, the work continued, and 44 local families in the community of Las Flores received sanitation facilities including private toilets, sink, shower, and septic tanks.
Throughout the ten-year period, the community was transformed from cardboard shacks to block houses with trees and flowers planted throughout. In 2001 when the project was complete, community members, volunteers and staff joined together in San Quintin for a fiesta to celebrate the accomplishments and friendships that had been formed through the years.
Twenty years flew by and today International Relief Teams is back working in San Quintin, working with the community to assist in the provision of sustainable food, sanitation, and housing.
In February, we invited Jason Kass, Founder and Executive Director of Toilets for People, to visit San Quintin to explore building affordable, long lasting composting toilets using local materials.
Toilets for People has developed a variety of waterless composting toilets that is cost-effective,adaptive to site-specific needs and scalable. In addition, Toilets for People trains local craftsmen on how to build, install and maintain the composting toilets.
As part of the trip Jason and International Relief Teams’ CEO, Angelica Ocampo, visited students from the Agricultural Engineering Program at Universidad Intercultural de Baja California in San Quintin, Mexico. The goal was to introduce these ecological solutions to the students, gather their feedback and invite them to learn more about their benefits.
International Relief Teams is currently piloting a sustainable food program in San Quintin and will be building more waterless toilets shortly.
Easily accessible construction items.
The toilet crew shows off various designs.
New Homes, New Beginnings (Tijuana,Mexico)
On February 18, 2023, eleven International Relief Teams volunteers built a home for Irma and Antonia Perez-Echeberria in colonia Trebol, Tijuana. The home-build was sponsored by International Relief Teams volunteer Ian Subel to celebrate the memory of his friend Isaac Saxe.
After 22 years together, Irma and Antonia Perez-Echeberria dreamed of owning a space that would accommodate their growing family of five. “We are struggling and sleeping in a cramped room. There is no money to build a larger or better house,” Antonio shared. After years of living with family and then their tiny shack, they now have a beautiful, brightly colored safe haven for their family to grow and flourish.
Enrique, their eldest son, with a dream of becoming a carpenter, even worked alongside the volunteers as they placed the roof above his futurehome.
Following a prayer of hope for the future, Beth Saxe celebrated her husband’s life and legacy by handing Irma and her family the keys to their new home and new beginning.
New Homes, New Beginnings (Tijuana, Mexico)
On Saturday, January 28th, 2023, International Relief Teams volunteers traveled to Portezuelo, a small community in Tijuana, to build a home for the Beltran-Angulo family. Three years ago, Claudia and Francisco moved their family from Sinaloa to Tijuana to find work, hoping for better opportunities for themselves and their family.
Watch their house being built below.
Feeding San Diego’s Kids
In 2021, Brianna, a U.S. army veteran,was diagnosed with Guillain-Barre syndrome, a rare nerve infection that left her paralyzed and hospitalized from August 2020 to March 2022. Today, Brianna is not only walking again, but is also dedicated to giving her 2 sons- Sean and Kayden, happy and healthy childhoods.
Encouraged by the school counselor,Brianna signed her family up for the Feeding San Diego Kid’s program at the beginning of the school year.
“It helps. It really comes in handy in between paychecks,” Diana, Brianna’s mother, shared. “My husband [Brianna’s stepfather] is the only one with a paycheck. The weekend food helps a lot”.
With the ingredients in the pack, Brianna’s family has made a list of family favorite recipes: chicken stir-fry,hamburger helper, chicken and corn soup, and doctored tomato sauce with frozen Italian blend vegetables.
Diana adds that a family favorite has been her signature chicken stir fry. “I throw in some soy sauce, vegetables,the can of chicken, and it’s stir-fry. We are a Hispanic and Native family, so we have it with the rice. It turns out delicious. Everyone loves it!”
When asked their favorite food in the pack, Sean, age 9, and Kayden, age 8, both shared that they loved spaghetti. Kayden dreams of becoming a chef and one day, making his family a delicious ratatouille.
So far, in the 2022-2023 School Year, the Feeding San Diego Kid’s program has distributed 5,526 food packs to 4 local San Diego elementary schools. We thank our wonderful packing and delivery volunteers for dedicating their time to helping families like Brianna’s spend less time worrying about their next meal and more time together.
California Wildfires – Long-Term Recovery(Paradise & Migalia, CA)
In January 2023, 16 International Relief Teams volunteers traveled to Paradise, CA to aid in the work being done on two homes in Paradise and Migalia, CA. Even with the rain and waking up every morning to everything covered in ice, one group of International Relief Teams volunteers worked on the interior of one home and the other completed the framing of another.
Since the fire hit the small town of Magalia, Eddie has had to live 30 minutes away from the place he once called home. On the day of the fire, he recalls the roads being so jammed that he had to leave his car and walk to safety. During the framing process, Eddie was able to meet with the construction volunteers and watch the walls of his home stand once again.
In December, International Relief Teams launched a fundraising campaign to bring awareness to the “Forgotten Crises of the World” - Yemen, Syria and the Rohingya.
The current level of hunger in Yemen is unprecedented, and the risk of a large-scale famine is real. By January 2023, 19 million Yemenis are projected to be food insecure. International Relief Teams is responding to this humanitarian crisis through partners on the ground that are delivering food and essential support to health care facilities across the country that are treating deadly disease outbreaks, including cholera and diphtheria.
International Relief Teams is working with partners on the ground to provide hospitals with life-saving medicines and medical supplies for the children and innocent civilians affected by the civil war. The most vulnerable families are also assisted through International Relief Teams’ funding of programs that provide food, water, sanitation, and hygiene.
The Rohingya have faced years of systemic discrimination and abuse in their native Myanmar. Today, over 920,000 Rohingyas live in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh – the largest refugee camp in the world. International Relief Teams provided food,water and healthcare services and helped to build, repair, and maintain latrines.
New Homes, New Beginnings (Tijuana,Mexico)
On December 17th 2022, ten employees from Sillman Architecture & Design Firm in San Diego, CA, joined International Relief Teams to build a home for the Soriano-Castrejon Family.
Laura and Alfredo moved to Tijuana three years ago to build a better future for their growing family. Ever since they moved to the small community of Portezuelo, they have lived in an unsafe structure held together by little to no support. In one day, through the hard work and efforts of the Sillman Team, the Soriano-Castrejon family finally have a safe and secure home.
November 16, 2022 –The American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA) hosted the world premiere of “Graphis Designers for Peace: United with Ukraine” poster exhibition in San Diego, CA. A fundraiser for World Kitchen and International Relief Teams.
Medicines for Children (Niger)
International Relief Teams is able to procure medicines at a fraction of their retail cost and then distribute them to hospitals and health clinics through our nonprofit partners. The latest shipment of medicines and medical supplies to Niger is worth over $11,000,000.
California Wildfires – Long-Term Recovery(Paradise & Happy Camp, CA)
In November 2022, International Relief Teams deployed twenty-five volunteers from across the United States who traveled to Paradise and Happy Camp, CA to aid in the building of four homes.
International Relief Teams volunteer, Linda, recruited family members from five different states to join the build in Paradise. “We all had a wonderful time, and everyone said they would like to return to build again,”Linda shared after her family worked on three homes in the span of seven days.
On October 15, 2022, we honored International Relief Teams' founder, Barry La Forgia. It was a moving night, full of joyful memories from three decades of service, as we wished Barry a well-deserved retirement. With your help, we were able to raise over $300,000 for Medicines for Children.These donations allowed us to provide over $15 million in medicines for poor children and families around the world.
California Wildfires – Long-Term Recovery
The 2018 and 2020 wildfires in California were the deadliest and most destructive in the state's history. Vulnerable families lost their homes, their livelihoods, and their hopes for the future.Working closely with long-time partners and volunteers, International Relief Teams is rebuilding homes for families recovering from wildfire disasters at two sites in northern California, Paradise, and Happy Camp.
In September 2022, International Relief Teams deployed nineteen volunteers from across the United States to aid in the rebuilding of four homes. Ten volunteers were able to frame the walls for one home in Paradise and nine volunteers worked on three different houses in Happy Camp. One of those was the home of Kenny and Donna McCulley.
What does it mean when you lose the only home you have ever known?
For Kenny and Donna, it meant losing 150 years’ worth of precious family photos,memories, and keepsakes. It meant losing a place to come to at the end of a hard day.
“There was nothing left,” Kenny shared. “Just a stinking, smoking pile of rubble.”
On the day of the fire, Kenny made sure Donna, their basset hounds, and cats were safe before he returned to their home to release the animals that were trapped in their barn. While he reached the property in time, he did stay with his donkey, Roy, till the last moments of his life. “His eyes had been badly burnt. He wouldn’t have survived. We had Roy since he was a little thing. It was hard losing him.” Though the rest of the animals were released, to this day, Kenny does not know if they survived the fire.
In the weeks after the Slater Fire in 2020, Kenny and Donna only had contact over the phone. While Donna temporarily stayed with a local church group and some family friend’s, Kenny spent weeks trying to find a shelter that allowed them to be together.
For the last two years, they have been living in two donated trailers provided by the local Indian tribe and Kenny’s brother.
Today, Kenny and Donna are able to stand on the porch of their new home thanks to the hard work and diligent efforts of the volunteers from International Relief Teams and our partners, Hope Crisis Response Network.
“It’s humbling. I can never repay what they’ve done for us,” Kenny expressed, "looking forward to moving out of the trailer and into their new home".