Originally Published: May 31, 2013 6:01 a.m.
A man searching for his Syrian family after their refugee camp in Turkey was bombed was reunited with a 6-year-old relative thanks to Prescott resident Kayla Mueller.
After looking frantically for missing family members, he eventually found an 11-year-old girl alive at a hospital, but learned his wife had died, and could not find the boy.
The man turned to Mueller, who works in Turkey with the international humanitarian aid agency Support to Life. He gave her a video image of the boy, and she later found him after he came out of surgery at another hospital.
Mueller spoke Wednesday about her experiences to the Prescott Kiwanis Club, where her father Carl Mueller is a member.
"This story is not rare in Syria," Mueller said. "This is the reality for Syrians two and a half years on. When Syrians hear I'm an American, they ask, 'Where is the world?' All I can do is cry with them, because I don't know."
Mueller said after learning more about the situation in Syria, she was drawn to help and finds now she "can't do enough."
Mueller said she's heard of children being hurt by unexploded bombs, women being forced into early marriages, and children being forced to fight for both sides.
Children as young as 8 are working because there's no access to school, Mueller added, as schools have been targeted by the Syrian government for bombing. People who have lost their homes to the bombs and fighting are living in groups in caves and large businesses, Mueller said.
"Syrians are dying by the thousands, and they're fighting just to talk about the rights we have," Mueller said.
"For as long as I live, I will not let this suffering be normal. (I will not let this be) something we just accept," Mueller said. "It's important to stop and realize what we have, why we have it and how privileged we are. And from that place, start caring and get a lot done."
As part of her work, Mueller draws, paints and plays with Syrian children in the refugee camps and helps with psycho-social interventions.
"We give and get joy from playing with these children," Mueller said.
During one activity, Mueller said they asked the Syrian children to draw their ideal place, and each child drew his or her own home.
"They told us everything about their house," Mueller said. "They said, 'There's a tree in front of my house that I climb.' 'There's this squeaky door that my dad never fixed.'
"Half the 1.5 million refugees the U.N. has registered are children," Mueller continued. "In the chaos of waking up in the middle of the night and being shelled, we're hearing of more children being separated from their families by accident."
Kiwanis Member Kurt Vogel asked what actions Mueller would recommend.
"A no-fly zone over refugee camps would be number one," Mueller said.
The U.S. is one of the biggest donors to humanitarian relief, but Mueller said she believes the media is not portraying the situation accurately, because people would react if they saw what she has.
"The people of the United States would see that something needs to be done," Mueller said.
Mueller also works with a nongovernment organization whose name translates to Dignity to help Syrian refugee women develop the skills they need to support themselves and their family. For more information about the project and how to help, email email@example.com.
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