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Meet Syria’s All-Women Rescue Team

These women don white helmets and run into bomb-blasted buildings to save lives.

Image via the White Helmet's IndieGogo page.

Bombs continue to fall in Syria, and in rebel-held areas, emergency-response teams are composed of inexperienced volunteers and NGO workers. Many work for Syria Civil Defence, a volunteer-led effort to save people from bomb blasts and provide medical care. They’re referred to as “White Helmets,” for their distinguishable headgear. Last October, the group began recruiting women for the first time, taking them to Turkey for medical training and instruction in emergency response protocols and techniques. They can perform search and rescue missions and even operate as paramedics.

The young women joining the White Helmets are former teachers and students, plumbers and painters. But their lives were violently disrupted by the civil war, and now they find themselves donning khaki uniforms and protective gear to run into bomb-blasted buildings and ride along in makeshift ambulances.

“The start of the war meant I could not continue with my studies,” said White Helmet volunteer Ebaa Tome to the Guardian. “So I decided to join to help rescue my people.”

There is still some discomfort in the community with women performing jobs that are traditionally performed by men, but people are starting to recognize the critical role these women are playing in the conflict, especially as the violence persists for another year.

“We are definitely changing mindsets,” said Hasnaa Shawaf, a White Helmet in the city of Idlib. “Once people realised how useful we could be, they became really supportive and even started encouraging their sisters to join us!”

Just last month, the White Helmets’ female team completed an extremely successful round of crowd-funding on IndieGoGo, in which they raised more than $100,000 for 6 new ambulances.

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