Most children would identify Santa’s home as the North Pole, but there is growing evidence that it might actually be in Finland. Because that’s where 44 year-old Rami Adham lives.
Five years ago, the Finnish national who emigrated from Syria in 1988, watched in horror from the safety of his home in Helsinki as footage of Aleppo was shown on television. The graphic images of sorrow and agony produced by the bloody Syrian civil war moved Adham to do something. That ‘something’ turned into a plan that sounded like a Christmas cartoon: to smuggle toys, along with water, food, and medical supplies to the refugee children of Syria, starting with Aleppo---his birth city. But unlike a holiday cartoon, if Rami was caught he would be killed.
Since his decision in 2011 Adham---who has six children of his own---has flown to Turkey and then slipped over the mountainous border into Syria on thirty occasions. He visits refugee camps in several different locations, and each time he carries with him hundreds of toys. His sack, which can weigh up to 170 pounds, is stuffed with Barbie dolls, teddy bears, and even Buzz Lightyear. During Ramadan alone, the ‘Syrian Santa’ smuggled in more than 700 toys.
On some trips it’s too dangerous to drive so he walks---up to eight miles. Depending on the location of the camp and the means of transportation, each trek can take between eight and sixteen hours.
All this effort and risk just to bring toys? For Rami Adham, toys are exactly what’s called for because they remind the children that they still have childhoods, and that they haven’t been forgotten by the rest of the world.
Today as many as 3 million children live in Syrian refugee camps. Some go to school, but most work. And death is everywhere. In June, while visiting Aleppo, six orphaned children were killed while Adham was there.
To facilitate collection of toys for his trips to Syria, which now average one every two months, Rami has established the Finnish-Syrian Association. Additionally, the ‘toy smuggler’ has now set up a Go Fund Me campaign to build a school for the refugee children. In just two months, Adham has been able to raise over $66,000 of the $110,000 needed.
Santa appears to have traded in his red suit for mountain fatigues, presently has a brown beard, and now works year-round---but he most definitely still exists!
And a weary world gives thanks.
Rami Adham is a hero you should know. And I’m Dr. Ross Porter.