Meal Time, Orphanage Life

1400 orphan boys at a camp eating in tin plates. One relief workers and supervisors are supervising them.

A Tented City

Tents in Beirut sheltering Armenian refugees in Syria. The photo in the magazine shows the tents located close to the seaside.

Shelter In Beirut

A photograph of a Near East Relief shelter’s exterior design and architecture.

Woman & Her Children

Woman and child standing over a child who died within sight of safety in Aleppo

Shifting Scenes, Near East Relief Map

This map shows the shifting scene of Near East Relief activities since the Smyrna disaster. 1,250,000 Armenians, Greeks, and other fled from Turkey to Syria, Greece, and Islands of the Aegean.

Annie Slack Distributing Quinine Candy

Annie Slack worked for Near East Relief, and later, for the Near East Foundation. As an experienced nurse, Slack developed a mobile health clinic that was the only source of medical care for natives and refugees in Moushashen, Syria. She employed five nurse assistants, three of whom were former Near East Relief orphans.

Image courtesy of the Arab Image Foundation (AIF).

Wedding of Elsa Reckman and Stanley Kerr, Beirut, 1922

Relief workers Elsa Reckman and Stanley Kerr met while working in Marash. They worked together to evacuate thousands of children from Cilicia to Syria. The couple was married at the Near East Relief personnel house in Beirut in 1922. Photo courtesy of Doug Kerr.

L-R: Roy King, unknown man, unknown child (possibly Zadi Gannaway), Stanley Kerr, Elsa Reckman Kerr, Marion Kerr King (Stanley’s sister), unknown woman. 

Juniyeh Orphanage, 1924

Near East Relief rented a former silk factory in Juniyeh to house girls from Caesarea and Konia after the evacuation from the interior. This photo appeared in the March 1924 issue of the New Near East magazine.

Ruth Narumian writes her lessons, Juniyeh

The “armless girl” of Juniyeh completes her lessons. This photo appeared in the September 1924 issue of the New Near East. A similar photograph appeared in the Brooklyn Eagle in 1924; it identified the young woman as Ruth Narumian.

Mealtime at Juniyeh Orphanage

Mealtime in the outdoor dining area at Juniyeh, a girls’ orphanage 12 miles from Beirut. This photograph appeared in the New Near East magazine in June 1924.

Young girls with bed rolls

Smiling girls carrying bed rolls outside of an orphanage. This unlabeled photograph is probably from one of the girls’ orphanages in Syria that Nellie Miller often visited, such as Seaside (Sidon) or Juniyeh.

Older girl sewing

An older girl sewing, probably in Beirut. Near East Relief worker Nellie Miller was captivated by the Armenian refugee population in Beirut and the surrounding area.

Outdoor dining area at Antilyas

Preparing for a meal in the outdoor dining area at Antilyas Orphanage. This Near East Relief orphanage was funded by donations from Australia and New Zealand.

Young boy in a fez

A young boy in traditional costume, including a fez, probably Beirut.

View of the Beirut personnel house

The Near East Relief personnel house in Beirut, c. 1923. The personnel house served as a temporary home for Near East Relief administrative workers at the Beirut office. It also offered temporary accommodations to visitors from other Near East Relief offices. Near East Relief volunteer Nellie Miller Mann lived in the personnel house in the early 1920s.

Unpacking at the Birds’ Nest

Based on Nellie Miller’s notes, Maria Jacobsen (right) is unpacking supplies sent from Denmark. Miss Jacobsen ran the Birds’ Nest on behalf of Near East Relief, but she was also a missionary with a Danish organization.

Nellie Miller with children dining on the porch at the Birds’ Nest

Nellie Miller’s original caption reads”Watching the babies eat on the spacious veranda of the old palace which was rented to the Near East Relief for a nominal sum because it was standing empty.” Nellie stands at left. The woman at right is probably a mairig, or nurse matron.

Children dining on the porch at the Birds’ Nest

Children take their meal at a long table on the colonnaded porch of the Birds’ Nest Orphanage. Nellie Miller’s original caption reads “Prayer before meal.  See their earnest little faces.”

Refugee woman and baby

Nellie Miller’s original caption reads: “A woman caring for one of the babies at Birdsnest Orphanage, Sidon hilltop.” Based on this caption, the woman is probably not the child’s mother. She is most likely a mairik (matron).

Mother carrying a child on her back

Mother carrying a child in the traditional Armenian manner. Nellie Miller’s original caption reads: “A mother carrying a sick child.  Months of hardship reduced these folks to beggars.”

Refugee camp in Beirut

Nellie Miller’s original caption simply states “Beirut.” Armenian refugees formed communities in Beirut, with the largest in the Bourj Hammoud district.

Two refugee boys

Two refugee boys dressed in scavenged clothing. The boy on the left is barefoot; the boy on the right wears shoes that are either improvised or severely damaged.

Five child refugees

Five young people walking from Turkey to safety in Syria. A version of this photograph also appeared on the cover of the New Near East magazine in April 1923

Refugee child in rags

Refugee child  in rags. Children struggled to keep covered in the extreme climate. Many suffered from sunburn and frostbite. Nellie Miller’s original caption reads: “With clothes torn patched, torn again, tied together children presented a pitiful sight.”

Girl washing clothes with a small cup of water

Nellie Miller’s original caption reads: “An Armenian girl trying to do her laundry with a little pan of water.” Refugees struggled to preserve their dignity in extremely difficult living conditions.

Refugee camp in Beirut

Nellie Miller’s original caption reads: “Many tents were furnished by the French Government. This shows close up of day in the camp household.”

Orphans at mealtime

The original caption reads: “2,500 children waiting to be fed at just one orphanage, Syria.”

Children with a truck

Nellie Miller’s original caption reads: “Don’t you love these boys.  Did I write to you about them – the ones from Alexandretta.  If not I must write.  They are dears, as lively as any boy you ever saw, even though their books and clothes are not uniform.”

New Near East, June 1924: Children at the Birds’ Nest

New Near East magazine featuring five children at the Birds’ Nest orphanage in Sidon, Syria. The orphanage was operated by Danish missionary Maria Jacobsen on behalf of Near East Relief. The orphanage at Sidon was a very popular subject for the magazine. The Birds’ Nest moved to Jubeil in 1928.

Boys on the steps of the Aleppo Orphanage, 1924

Boys on the steps of the Aleppo Orphanage, 1924. Near East Relief operated two orphanages in Aleppo in the early 1920s. Many of the children in the orphanages were evacuees from other Near East Relief facilities in the Turkish interior, including the orphanages at Marash and Harput.

Children working at Jubeil Orphanage

Jubeil (also spelled Jebail or Jbeil) Orphanage was made up of both ancient and new buildings. The orphans constructed some of the buildings themselves; this was a common practice in many Near East Relief orphanages. The orphanage at Jubeil housed 1,200 children.

Maria Jacobsen with a child at Zouk Orphanage

Maria Jacobsen, a Danish missionary who worked with Near East Relief in Syria, specialized in working with the youngest orphans. Maria Jacbosen ran Zouk Orphanage before opening the Birds’ Nest in Sidon in 1923.

Katherine Ogden Fletcher with orphans in Juniyeh

Miss Katherine Ogden Fletcher worked for Near East Relief in Caesarea, Angora, and Mersine. She was named director of the orphanage at Juniyeh, where she helped the girls to created a system of self-government. In this photograph from the New Near East magazine, Miss Fletcher watches girls clean lentils for an orphanage meal.


Orphan toymaker in Beirut, 1922

The original caption from the New Near East magazine identifies this little boy as an amateur toymaker in Beirut. Toys were in very short supply in the orphanages, despite donations from American children. The orphans turned to their creativity, making toys from sticks, metal scraps, and cloth.

Refugee woman with baby in a makeshift cradle, 1922

Refugee woman with a baby in a makeshift cradle. The original caption in the New Near East magazine identified the woman as an Armenian evacuee from the Cilicia region of south-central Anatolia. The portion of the Armenian population that was able to return to Cilicia after the 1915 deportations faced a new crisis when the Turkish Nationalist army took over Cilicia in the early 1920s. Most of the refugees fled to Syria.

Maria Jacobsen with a baby, 1923

Maria Jacobsen, a Near East Relief worker from KMA, a Danish missionary organization, with a baby. The original caption from the New Near East magazine refers to Miss Jacobsen as the “mother” of the children at the Birds’ Nest Orphanage. Prior to opening the Birds’ Nest in late 1923, Miss Jacobsen operated the orphanage at Zouk.

Child refugees in Beirut, 1923

Child refugees arriving in Beirut, 1923. Near East Relief area director H.B. McAfee often wrote about the vast numbers of refugees — especially children — arriving in Beirut, especially after Near East Relief was forced to cease operations in Central Anatolia.

Near East Relief carpentry shop in Aleppo, Syria

Older orphans learning a trade at the Near East Relief carpentry shop in Aleppo, Syria. Orphans graduated at age 16, and it was essential that they develop marketable skills in order to live independently. This photograph appeared in a 1924 issue of the New Near East magazine.

Near East Relief bakery in Aleppo

Refugees and older orphans found employment in the Near East Relief bakery in Aleppo, Syria. This particular bakery produced 1,000 lbs. of bread per day. The bread was used to feed Near East Relief orphans and genocide survivors living in Near East Relief-supported refugee camps in and around the city. This photograph was featured in a 1924 New Near East magazine article.

Girls at the Aleppo needlework shop

Near East Relief orphans working at the Aleppo, Syria needlework shop. The girls learned needlework, sewing, and embroidery as part of their vocational training. The products were sold in local shops to help benefit the orphanage. This photograph was featured in a 1924 New Near East article on orphan industries in Aleppo.

Two babies at the Birds’ Nest Orphanage in Sidon

Two babies at the Birds’ Nest Orphanage in Sidon, Syria. Danish missionary Maria Jacobsen operated the Birds’ Nest, which cared for some of the youngest children in Near East Relief’s care, in Sidon, Syria. She later moved the orphanage to Jubeil, Syria. This photograph was featured in an April 1924 issue of the New Near East. 

Orphan boy dying cotton in Aleppo, Syria

Orphan boy dying cotton in Aleppo, Syria. Many Near East Relief orphans in Syria found employment in the textile trade. Syria is well known for the quality of its cotton. This cotton was probably woven into fabric and made into garments by other orphans. This photograph was featured in a 1924 New Near East magazine article about vocational training in Aleppo.

Near East Relief Armenien tailor shop in Aleppo, Syria

Near East Relief Armenien tailor shop in Aleppo, Syria. Older children at the nearby orphanages produced clothing for sale in small shops like this one as part of their vocational training. The Aleppo shop was called “Armenien” in reference to the young tailors’ heritage.

Wedding of Near East Relief workers in Beirut

Wedding of Near East Relief workers in Beirut. Rev. Joseph Beach and Rev. James E. Nicol officiated the double wedding ceremony of Marion Kerr to Roy King and Ann Frances Sproule to Alfred Bastress. Kerr, King, and Sproule were Near East Relief workers.
Marion Kerr recorded the names of the attendees on the back of the photograph (L-R):
Miss Inez Webster, Mrs. Arthur Bacon, Mrs. Charles Fowle, Mr. Arthur Bacon, Belle Dorman, Daisy Humphrey, Mrs. Elsa Kerr, Helen Clark (partly hidden), Mrs. Gannaway, Stanley E. Kerr (Marion’s brother), Carol McAfee (partly hidden), Mary Francis Bacon, Mrs. F. Hoskins, and Rev. James E. Nicol. Azadouhi (Zadi) Gannaway, a former NER orphan, was the flower girl.
Image courtesy of Ellery Flynn.

Five child refugees

Five young people walking from Turkey to safety in Syria. A version of this photograph also appeared on the cover of the New Near East magazine in April 1923.

Young mechanic with car

A fourteen-year-old boy shows off a car that he built that actually runs. The original caption reads “There is not line of work whereby a boy in the Near East might hope some day to earn a living that Near East Relief is not teaching somewhere.” A similar photo appeared in the December 1924 issue of The New Near East magazine.

Boys in striped shirts

Boys in striped shirts performing exercises in an orphanage courtyard while a man in a fez looks on. A slip of paper in the envelope with the original glass plate negative identifies the scene as “Gregorian Boys School Beirut.” The date is unknown.

Nellie Miller with a large group of children

Relief worker Nellie Miller worked in Near East Relief’s office in Beirut, but spent much of her time visiting area orphanages. Nellie’s original caption reads: “At the Sidon Sea Orphanage with my little friends who called me Miss Nellie.”