The White Helmets

The White Helmets is a short, 40 minute Oscar-nominated documentary that’s available on Netflix right now, and here’s why you should watch it:

My amazing godson is into many things: Ghostbusters, Paw Patrol, trampolining, and putting Sean in jail (aka my mom’s closet) are just a few. When he was one, I remember sitting out in the backyard on a sunny summer day, and marveling at his chubby little finger pointing at the plane leaving a white cloud across the sky. None of the adults would have noticed it, but at one he was fascinated with planes and trains and automobiles and had a habit of pointing them all out with unabated fascination.

The White Helmets, also known as the Syria Civil Defense, are a group of volunteers social-share-01known for the white helmets they wear while rushing into the crumbling buildings and raging fires left after an airstrike. They live in and around Aleppo, and are committed to saving as many of the innocent but somehow still targeted civilians that get attacked every single day in Syria.

Over 400 000 Syrians have been killed in the past 5 years. The city of Aleppo is in ruins. There are no more services, no more infrastructure. Ordinary people – a tailor, a blacksmith, a builder – are learning the art of first response because they must. No one else is coming.

This documentary doesn’t touch the terrorism, it tackles instead the every day heroism of those who pull bodies from the rubble. The white helmets are of course not exempt from the violence. Their homes are just as likely to be bombed as anyone else’s. They pull family members from the wreckage. They know pain. And they risk everything to help. 154 White Helmets have died to save others, but 78 000 others have been saved to date. They have been nominated as a group for the Nobel Peace Prize but are banned from entering Donald Trump’s United States of America.

One man, a devoted White Helmet volunteer, tells the camera of his young son who crawls into his lap, cowering in fear every time a plane goes by. To him, plane = bomb. And that’s what tore me to shreds. By accident of birth, by geographical lottery, I am privileged. My godson is privileged. He thinks planes are wondrous. This little boy knows planes only to be destructive. It isn’t fair.


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14 thoughts on “The White Helmets

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  2. Lorna Cunningham-Rushton

    I hadn’t seen the documentary but had read about them, and wanted to include them in our year-end donations; Dave thought it would be more useful to donate to the Red Cross, but I was unusually forceful about supporting the White Helmets directly. Glad I wasn’t a wuss.


    1. Jay Post author

      We had similar discussions here! I also donated to Medecins sans frontieres, and to Lifeline Syria at Ryerson to actually help get more refugees in this country.

      Trudeau has been touring the country and the #1 question he’s gotten about the refugees is how to get them here faster. That makes me proud.


  3. J.

    That’s quite a thought, huh? Our location being the difference between how our children view planes.

    I’ll look out for this one. It’s good to know that for all the batshit crazy shenanigans that go on in this world that there are people like this. Although it’d be preferable that they weren’t needed at all, I imagine they are a light in dark times.


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