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Santa of Syria

The 44-year-old was born in Aleppo but grew up in Helsinki, Finland — where he now lives with his wife and six children.

When the Syrian civil war started in 2012, he decided he had to help the children of his native city in any way he could.

Initially, he planned to carry food and other aid supplies — but his daughter Yasmeen, then 3 years old, had another idea. She insisted that he donate her own toys to Syrian children.

"That first time, we went to a refugee camp near the border. We'd brought food, but when we started giving away the toys, it created a huge fuss. Kids were coming from all over. I realised they weren’t thinking about food - they just wanted a toy,"said Mr Adham.

When they saw the toys, "their eyes were big, everybody was smiling," Adham said.

Until two years ago, he crossed into Syria through the border with Turkey, but after it closed down, he started crossing into the war-torn country illegally, carrying an 80kg bag of toys on his back all the way to Aleppo.

It's a dangerous trip that he has to make by foot, because it's dangerous to drive through rebel-held and government-held districts.


However, the dangers he faces on his every trip aren't enough to stop the toy smuggler. His mission is just too important.

Adham's singular mission has blossomed into a charity called the Finland Syria Community Association, which collects donated toys from children across Europe and sponsors 420 orphans in Syria.

The charity also has begun building its fourth school in Syria's refugee camps, giving more than 2,000 displaced children somewhere to learn.

"They don't feel we're just giving them a toy, they feel that we're backing them," he said. "We're giving them the security that no matter what happened to you, we're here for you."

He has so far made the journey from Helsinki to Aleppo 28 times, and doesn't plan on stopping until the war ends.


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