The Current

Toy smuggler risks life to bring hope to Syrian kids

It seems like such a little thing — a stuffed animal or doll but for the kids in Aleppo toys from Rami Adham means so much. The toy smuggler sneaks across borders and front lines to give Syrian children stuck in war a little bit of childhood.

Meet the toy smuggler of Aleppo

6 years ago
Duration 1:01
Meet the toy smuggler of Aleppo

Read story transcript

With a bag full of Barbies, Rami Adham walks over 12 hours into war-torn Syria across the Turkish border. 

The 44-year-old father of six, who has lived in Finland since 1989, is originally from Aleppo. For the past four years, he has been making this perilous journey in order to distribute medicine, money and, most importantly, toys to the children of war-torn Syria.

Toy smuggler Rami Adham says bringing toys to kids in Aleppo is something he can do to help restore their childhood. (Courtesy of Rami Adham)

"I started going to Syria in early 2012 to deliver aid. I wanted to see my people face to face, to see exactly what they need."

It was while preparing for that trip when Adham's three-year-old daughter suggested he bring the children some toys.

"She said if you are going to meet kids in Syria you can't go empty-handed."

Adham tried to explain to her that he couldn't buy every child a toy.

"She went into her bedroom and collected all her toys. She put them in an Ikea bag and said, 'Here you go.'"

"​Kids, it's their job to play their job to have fun," Adham tells Tremonti.  "So when they were deprived from security, playgrounds, schools...  and often times their own parents, they were left with no hope."

Aleppo kids with their toys 

Adham has made 28 trips into Syria and has distributed over 20,000 toys to children in Aleppo and surrounding refugee camps.  He says "words can't describe" the feeling of handing out toys to children living through a war. 

"[It's] the least I can do to restore some of their childhood." 

Adham now heads up the Finland Syria Community Association, which collects donated toys from children across Europe, sponsors over 400 orphans in Syria and runs three schools in different refugee camps. 

"The kids don't care how much money you have. All they care about is a handful of candies, and a toy," Adham tells Tremonti.

'Kids, it's their job to play. It's their job to have fun,' says the toy smuggler. (Courtesy of Rami Adham)

"Why do I do this? The smiles I get back. It's the beautiful positive atmosphere that we create. Giving them a glimpse of childhood, the glimpse of hope, some joy to their heart."

"With that I see it as if I am protecting, or preserving, or investing in Syria's future."

Listen to the full conversation below the video at the top of this post.

This segment was produced by The Current's Lara O'Brien.

now