When the earthquake hit Syria on February 6th, the first responders were a group of ordinary women and men: bakers, tailors, pharmacists, salespeople, and engineers, who rushed in to pull people from the rubble. Despite their different trades, they were unified by one distinct feature: they all wore white helmets.

The White Helmets, also known as the Syria Civil Defence, is a humanitarian group that formed in late 2012 when Syria’s peaceful revolution descended into war. As bombs started destroying neighbourhoods, essential services like firefighting and healthcare were wiped out. Groups of volunteers around the country stepped in to provide an emergency response without proper equipment or medical training but united by their concern for human life.

These frontline humanitarians, who are unpaid and unarmed, have risked their lives to help people regardless of their religion, politics, or even what side of the war they are fighting. In 2013 some volunteers travelled to Turkey for professional training in urban search and rescue and over the years more advanced training has allowed the White Helmets to establish specialised teams and facilities.

In addition to their work as first-responders, these volunteers also provide a range of essential services for communities, from repairing sewage systems and electrical grids, clearing debris and unexploded weapons, and creating awareness about disaster response.

Today the organisation has around 3,000 volunteers and their efforts have saved over 125,000 lives, in addition to the 3,000 people they’ve rescued in the aftermath of the earthquake. As the rescue effort transitions into a long recovery, these men and women will once again roll up their sleeves to rebuild neighbourhoods and restore hope to broken communities.

“We have rescued our own family members, complete strangers, and Assad regime soldiers. Our motto comes from the Qu’ran: Whoever saves one life, it is as if they have saved all of humanity.”

Source: Future Crunch

Photo credit: Future Crunch

The White Helmets are responding to the huge earthquake that hit Syria and Turkey. As they search for survivors and pull the dead from collapsed buildings, and rebuild, they urgently need support. Click here to learn more.