As lawmakers begin to debate whether a U.S. military strike is necessary in Syria, the number of people fleeing the war-torn country continues to grow -- and a Minnesota man is on his way to help them.
Members of the American Refugee Committee have been to Jordan at least twice over the past six months, a country that has offered solace to many Syrian citizens fleeing the bloody civil war.
At least 600,000 Syrians have fled to that bordering nation over the past two and half years. In total, 2 million Syrians have fled -- half of them children.
"It's a tense situation and you never know what you're going to see, our goal there is to help the people that need help," said American Refugee Committee member Nicholas Vangen-Weeks.
The St. Cloud native is leaving Minnesota to fulfill a timely humanitarian mission with the ARC – a Minneapolis-based aid-agency.
"I'm headed over to Jordan to continue our programming there. We're providing shelter, water, sanitation and protection for refugees in the region," he explained.
Meanwhile, the U.N. reports the number of Syrian refugees has increased tenfold over the past year.
"What is appalling is that the first million fled Syria during two years. The second million fled Syria in six months," said Antonio Guterres, the United Nations' high commissioner for refugees.
An average of 5,000 Syrians leave the country every day, and 3.5 million refugees are expected by year's end. That number is proof of the severity of Syria's ongoing crisis.
"These are indeed two million of individual stories," Guterres continued. "Two million people that many have lost their houses, members of their family, their possessions."
Even more troubling is the number of children who are displaced, with an estimated 740,000 under the age of 11 and likely traumatized by the gunfire and rockets they've seen fly through the country's streets.
"It's atrocious, there's no doubt about it," Vangen-Weeks said. "It gives you resolve to do what you need to do."
Vangen-Weeks expects his humanitarian aid mission will keep him in Jordan for a month, but it's his third trip to the country in the past six months and those experiences have taught him to prepare for the unexpected.
"We're providing roles within the larger humanitarian context to kind of a contingency plan. It's a tense situation. We don't know what's coming, so the idea is to be ready for any eventuality," Vangen-Weeks explained. "So, I assume a lot of what I'll be doing is assisting in that planning effort."
Vangen-Weeks told FOX 9 he has no opinion over whether the U.S. should interject with a military strike in Syria, but he is confident his effort will make a real difference.
"We get to save lives … the lives of people that really need it," he said. "It's tremendously personally satisfying -- even if my role is incredibly tiny within that."
Two organizations with Minnesota ties are helping the people of Syria: The American Refugee Committee and its partner, Questscope. Information on both agencies can be found below.
American Refugee Committee is taking donations to support its relief efforts at:
American Refugee Committee
615 First Avenue NE, Suite 500
Minneapolis, MN 55413
Donations can also be made over the phone by calling 612-872-7060 or online at www.ARCrelief.org.
More information on Questscope, which has been providing help in the Middle East for more than 30 years and has offices in Minnesota., can be found online here: www.questscope.org.