Rebuilding bakeries in Syria

In the midst of the chaos and upheaval, Concern’s Humanitarian Program & Policy Officer Abby Bruell finds herself bonding with Syrian refugees over a shared love for the humble loaf.

On a recent trip to Turkey, Concern’s Humanitarian and Policy Officer Abby Bruell had the opportunity to visit the home of Syrian refugees who were supported by Concern. On her visits, Abby found she had something in common with families she had never met before: the love of bread. She spoke to Syrian refugees who animatedly expressed their love of bread and articulated its political and cultural significance in Syrian culture. One woman stated, “You can’t imagine life without bread”.

The importance and value of bread

The significance of bread transcends country and culture, and in Syria bread is a cornerstone of social existence. It is a primary source of nutrition and sustenance, and even more so, it is central to the cultural and social fabric of the country. Unfortunately since the violence broke out in Syria over five years ago, bread has become increasingly scarce, as bakeries, flour mills, and wheat collection centres have come under attack from all sides. Many Syrian bakeries are now non-functional or completely destroyed.

Abby Bruell, Concern’s Humanitarian Program & Policy Officer, gets her hands decorated with henna at a youth centre. Photo: Concern Worldwide.
Abby Bruell, Concern’s Humanitarian Program & Policy Officer, gets her hands decorated with henna at a youth centre. Photo: Concern Worldwide.

In pursuit of bread

The Syrians who spoke to Abby told her stories of their difficulties sourcing bread in Syria; of how they had to wait in long lines for bread, often from morning until night, in constant fear that the bakery might be attacked. They discussed their love of bread and how they missed the normality of buying such a basic commodity. Listening to their stories Abby was struck by their resilience and determination, and she soon came to realise the importance of Concern’s bakery restoration projects in Syria.

Concern is distributing food to Syrian refugees in Turkey. Within Syria, the situation is much more complicated and dangerous, but Concern is working to rehabilitate local bakeries to provide bread. Photo: Caroline Gluck/Concern Worldwide.
Concern is distributing food to Syrian refugees in Turkey. Within Syria, the situation is much more complicated and dangerous, but Concern is working to rehabilitate local bakeries to provide bread. Photo: Caroline Gluck/Concern Worldwide.

Rehabilitating bakeries in Syria

Since October 2015, Concern has been helping to rehabilitate a wheat mill and 15 bakeries within Syria. This project not only supplies bread — with all the nutritional and symbolic benefits that involves — but also addresses longer-term development issues by creating and sustaining livelihoods. While Concern works to provide immediate life-saving assistance to the most vulnerable, we also strive to provide a sense of normality to thousands whose lives have been disrupted by war — and that means finding a way to bring back bread.

One of the bakeries Concern is restoring within Syria. In the foreground you can see bags of bread the bakery has already begun to produce. Photo: Concern Worldwide.
One of the bakeries Concern is restoring within Syria. In the foreground you can see bags of bread the bakery has already begun to produce. Photo: Concern Worldwide.

Returning to Syria

Should the families who Abby visited in Turkey ever return to their homes in Syria — and the vast majority do want to go home — they will return knowing that their neighborhood bakeries will be able to provide them with a central staple even if everything else may seem uncertain.  

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