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Latrobe volunteer learns of Syrian children's suffering in trip to Jordan

| Tuesday, April 1, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
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Amanda Slockey (right) of Latrobe went to Jordan to work with Syrian refugees and use her expertise as a dental assistant to educate about dental hygiene.

Hearing the stories of refugee families from Syria crowded into one-room apartments in Jordan with no money for food or education for their children, Amanda Sloskey tried to stay strong.

“I knew that I was supposed to be there and I was doing the right thing,” Sloskey said of her two-week visit there with Save the Children. “You need to give them hope for a better tomorrow.”

After taking mission trips as a teenager with New Stanton United Methodist Church, Sloskey of Latrobe held on to her dream of helping others.

Now 27, she conducted research for 2 12 years, began learning Arabic, and raised about $3,500 in donations through fundraising before making the trip this year.

Save the Children is a Connecticut-based organization working in 120 countries to provide education, shelter, nutrition and sanitation to children and families, said spokeswoman Francine Uenuma.

“Children suffer whether it's a man-made conflict ... or a natural disaster,” she said. “Children are the most vulnerable.”

Sloskey chose the organization after a representative visited Latrobe and she was assured that she would be able to do hands-on work to aid those in need.

She worked with other volunteers to administer a voucher program in which refugees, who often cannot find work because they are not citizens, are able to buy basic goods at stores in cooperation with Save the Children.

A certified dental assistant, Sloskey also participated in a dental hygiene program for one group of refugee students, some of whom who had never used a toothbrush.

“When I first had the toothbrushes, they looked at me like, ‘What am I going to do with that thing?' Some of them were so excited, they couldn't wait to go home and brush their teeth,” she said.

The mother of a 3 12-year-old son, Sloskey said it was difficult to hear the experiences of middle-class families who had been displaced or torn apart because of war.

“So many thoughts are going through your head,” she said. “Those kids don't have any toys and don't know when their next meal is going to be. ... I think of those families every single day.”

Her husband, Michael Sloskey, said his wife's experience helps him count his blessings.

“It gave me a different perspective on the way we live; we just have everything in excess here,” he said. “People struggle here, but it's a different kind of struggle.”

Once he knew his wife was determined to visit Jordan, Sloskey said he supported and respected her choice.

“I told her to keep her head up and keep the faith,” he said. “It was a lot to take in. I couldn't imagine being in her shoes.”

Looking forward to a possible return next spring, Amanda Sloskey said her volunteer work helped her realize that people everywhere share the same spirit.

Some family and friends were skeptical of her choice to visit the Middle East, but she believes only real experience — not stereotypes — can be the best judge of character.

“It's not fair for us to view them (in a derogatory) way because of a small group of people who have made poor choices,” she said. “People are people, and it's unfortunate the way things have happened.”

Stacey Federoff is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-6660 or sfederoff@tribweb.com.

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