How Team Humanity Started
In September 2015, three-year-old Alan Kurdi and his family were tucked in a tiny inflatable boat along with 16 other refugees heading to the Greek island Kos, 30 minutes off the Turkish coast. Five minutes after setting course for Kos the boat capsized in the Mediterranean Sea. Hours later his body was found stranded ashore in Turkey. Photographs of his body spread swiftly across international news outlets fueling the debate and concern regarding the ongoing refugee crisis in the Mediterranean Sea. Back in Denmark, on September 3rd, 2015 Salam Aldeen watched the news broadcast the case of Alan Kurdi. The vision of his lifeless body and the thought of his family fleeing a war torn country to give him a better future left Salam thinking for days.
Coming from a refugee background, Salam could relate to Alan. He was born in Moldava into a family with an Iraqi father and Moldavian mother. When he was 9 years old they fled Moldava due to civil war. They too had a long and rough journey until they reached their final destination, Denmark. There they finally received refugee status. This is what inspired Salam to take action. Two days after the photo of Alan surfaced on September 5th, 2015; Salam decided to fly to Greece to volunteer for 1 week. Three hours after landing in Lesvos, he was already swimming to refugee boats that were stranded hundreds of meters away from the coast. There he rescued several men, women, children and newborn babies. That week changed his life completely. Salam then returned to Denmark and three days later, with about 30 people and 3 vans they were on their way back to Lesvos. This is how Team Humanity EU was founded.
Team Humanity USA
In 2014 Ayat’s life took an unexpected turn after volunteering at Zaatari Refugee Camp. Zaatari is the largest camp for Syrian refugees that has gradually evolved into a permanent settlement and is located at the border of Syria and Jordan. There she connected with many families and witnessed the devastating impact the war had on 80,000 of the world’s most vulnerable people. Yaseen, an 8-year-old boy stood shyly smiling behind several children with a warm gentle sparkle in his eyes that Ayat could never forget. She noticed his right arm was amputated and was determined to see what life looked like through Yaseen’s eyes. While in Damascus, Yaseen flew from a missile shell that tore parts of his left upper limb while trying to run for safety and shelter with his family to a nearby home. Yaseen’s story was one of thousands of children that were left with disabilities. Upon returning back to her home in Chicago, her view of the world completely changed. Life could never be the same. Ayat knew she would dedicate and spend the rest of her life making a difference in the lives of children and families fleeing conflict and living in poverty all over the world.
She continued to travel immensely, volunteering at several camps that helped to protect people recovering from war. In 2015, Ayat met Salam while volunteering in Lesvos, Greece, which at that time was the epicenter for the refugee crisis sweeping Europe. There the real crisis had just begun. There were no large organized groups of help, just several small groups of volunteers who helped receive thousands of refugees a day arriving on dinghy boats and completely soaked wet, freezing, and disoriented. Witnessing nothing like this before she was completely overwhelmed and devastated by the situation. Many were not fortunate enough to make it safely and survive.
Ayat vowed that she would continue to do anything possible to instill hope and happiness back in the lives of people and therefore continued to travel to various camps helping people suffering from crisis all over the world. In 2018 she returned back to Lesvos, Greece after hearing how neglected and overcrowded Moria Refugee Camp was and how it became known as the “the worst refugee camp on earth.” Since then, she’s continued to volunteer and contribute to the operations at the Hope and Peace Center founded in 2018 which serves as a safe space for women and children across Moria Camp. Here she felt she was beginning to witness true hope and happiness light back up in women and children’s eyes. She knew there would always be a need for more in the world and this is what inspired her to start Team Humanity USA in 2019.