The chemical attack in Syria is a war crime. Here's how to help.

Hundreds of Syrians, many of them children, were the victims of an unconscionable chemical attack — carried out by their own government — on April 4, 2017.

The attack was orchestrated under Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, according to U.S. officials, and has killed at least 70 people and injured hundreds more in the northern rebel-backed Idlib province, CNN reports.

The attack was particularly gruesome. The chemicals released possibly contained a nerve agent and other illegal substances that caused victims to gasp for air, writhe uncontrollably, and foam at the mouth while struggling to survive, rescue workers have reported, according to the New York Times.


A young victim of the chemical attack receives treatment in Maaret al-Noman. Photo by Mohamed Al-Bakour/AFP/Getty Images.

There's no quick fix. There's no redeeming silver lining that makes these deaths any less heartbreaking and senseless. Syrians are living through what most of us — watching the news through glass screens miles and oceans away — simply cannot fathom. The easiest thing to do right now is look away. But we shouldn't. We can do something. Now is the time to help.

Amid the chaos and misery, lives are being saved and families are staying whole, thanks to the courageous people working on the ground in Syria. And they need our help.

Photo by Mohamed Al-Bakour/AFP/Getty Images.

You can donate now to these organizations, all of which were on the ground, helping victims as the horror unfolded:

  • The Union of Medical Care and Relief Organizations (OUSSM)
    OUSSM provides emergency medical relief and health care services to hundreds of thousands of people affected by violence in and around Syria.

  • The Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS)
    SAMS has over 100 medical facilities throughout Syria, providing life-saving treatments and procedures for people in desperate need of care.

  • The White Helmets
    When devastation strikes, the Syria Civil Defense, also known as the White Helmets — a group made up of rescue volunteers — is usually among the first to rush in. Their mission is to save innocent lives, regardless of religion or politics.

It's understandable to feel outraged, but use that feeling to inspire you to act. The more we care about the Syrian people today, the more lives we'll be able to save tomorrow. 

Syrians pray before burying the bodies of those killed in the chemical attack. Photo by Fadi Al-Halabi/AFP/Getty Images.

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On an old episode of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" in July 1992, Oprah put her audience through a social experiment that puts racism in a new light. Despite being nearly two decades old, it's as relevant today as ever.

She split the audience members into two groups based on their eye color. Those with brown eyes were given preferential treatment by getting to cut the line and given refreshments while they waited to be seated. Those with blue eyes were made to put on a green collar and wait in a crowd for two hours.

Staff were instructed to be extra polite to brown-eyed people and to discriminate against blue-eyed people. Her guest for that day's show was diversity expert Jane Elliott, who helped set up the experiment and played along, explaining that brown-eyed people were smarter than blue-eyed people.

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Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience, says it can be difficult to create engaging course work that's applicable to the challenges students face. "I think that sometimes, teachers don't know where to begin. Teachers are always looking for ways to make learning in their classrooms more relevant."

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A new program for teachers that offers this network along with other resources is the WE Teachers Program, an initiative developed by Walgreens in partnership with ME to WE and Mental Health America. WE Teachers provides tools and resources, at no cost to teachers, looking for guidance around the social issues related to poverty, youth violence, mental health, bullying, and diversity and inclusion. Through online modules and trainings as well as a digital community, these resources help them address the critical issues their students face.

Jessica Mauritzen, a high school Spanish teacher, credits a network of support for providing her with new opportunities to enrich the learning experience for her students. "This past year was a year of awakening for me and through support… I realized that I was able to teach in a way that built up our community, our school, and our students, and supported them to become young leaders," she says.

With the new WE Teachers program, teachers can learn to identify the tough issues affecting their students, secure the tools needed to address them in a supportive manner, and help students become more socially-conscious, compassionate, and engaged citizens.

It's a potentially life-saving experience for students, and in turn, "a great gift for teachers," says Dr. Sanderlin.

"I wish I had the WE Teachers program when I was a teacher because it provides the online training and resources teachers need to begin to grapple with these critical social issues that plague our students every day," she adds.

In addition to the WE Teachers curriculum, the program features a WE Teachers Award to honor educators who go above and beyond in their classrooms. At least 500 teachers will be recognized and each will receive a $500 Walgreens gift card, which is the average amount teachers spend out-of-pocket on supplies annually. Teachers can be nominated or apply themselves. To learn more about the awards and how to nominate an amazing teacher, or sign up for access to the teacher resources available through WE Teachers, visit walgreens.com/metowe.

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