Mohammad Al-Masarwee - Previous Director of Civil Defence in Douma

Mohammad was the Director of Syria Civil Defence, known as the White Helmets, in the countryside of Damascus.

"I only sleep for three to four hours a day because of the pressure of my work. Most of the members of the civil defence work for 24 hours continuously, and rest for 48 hours before their next shift.

"When the civil defence was created we had almost 40 volunteers. Today our number has exceeded  400 volunteers.

"I’ve lost 37 people in my life, including members of my team, relatives and friends. They were killed by snipers, shells or missile. It is hard losing people but I remind myself that we do this because we believe that we have a humanitarian duty towards our fellow Syrians.

"I myself have been injured several times, one time was nearly fatal. But I promised myself that I would complete this mission no matter what came my way.

"One of the hardest situations I’ve faced was the chemical attack on Eastern Ghouta in August 2013. We mobilized our staff for a full 72 hours. Our job was to rescue civilians and evacuate them and the dead to our base in Douma.

"I still remember that day, Every time we entered houses we saw families affected by poison from the attack. It was really painful seeing infants children and babies who died in such a tragic way.

"That day, I went back to my house, I held my two children and cried.  I can't imagine losing them. Every time I save a child, it's as if I am saving my own children.  Every time we lose a child, it's as if we've lost our own children. It's hard to keep focus on your mission and not be emotional, we are humans.

"On top of that,  we are facing a lot of difficulties due to the siege on Eastern Ghouta. We’ve lost equipment including ambulances, fire trucks and heavy equipment many times. We've lost one to two vehicles in every civil defence center due to the attacks that targets civil defence teams as soon as they enter the scene and try to rescue people. And we can’t find the equipment and maintenance we need or get them delivered from abroad. Most of the time we can’t even afford to maintain the equipment because of the siege.  We use the machines we have even if they don’t function very well.  When we do find what we need, the prices are very high. But we have no other choice but to buy them. We need them to save people’s lives. This is our duty.

"With every life we save, we forget all the difficulties that come our way."