From civil unrest in the Middle East to Aiken, Columbia-based photojournalist Thomas Hammond will share with Aiken his stories of his time spent with Syrian refugees.

Aiken Peace will host the free Syrian Refugee Relief Benefit on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. at the Aiken Unitarian Universalist Church, located at 115 Gregg Ave. at the corner of Gregg and Derby Lane.

The Columbia-based photographer traveled to Syria, Turkey and Lebanon last fall with American military correspondent David Axe, capturing the current civil unrest between Syrians and President Bashar al-Assad's regime.

“He will do a slideshow presentation of his photos of what he took there, and you can actually get a sense of the experience on the ground,” Aiken Peace member David Matos said.

Violence in Syria erupted in 2011 as the country was crippled by what the international Red Cross declared as a civil war.

More than 100,000 people have died in Syria as a result of the conflict, some from chemical use, according to the United Nations. More than 2 million Syrians have fled the country and are registered now as refugees. A majority of those are women and children.

A reception will be held at 6:30 p.m., and a talk will follow at 7 p.m.

A suggested donation of $10 to $20 is asked of those who attend to benefit Syrian refugee charities. USC Aiken mathematics chairman and a native of Jordan, Dr. Mohammad Hailat, will also give an introduction before the talk with background information on the conflict.

Donations will go toward the Salaam School for refugees, the Syrian American Medical Society for those injured, and the Maran Foundation, a nonprofit to help stop the spread of violence.

“There's been over 2 million refugees from the civil war in Syria, and, at the very least, what we can do is try to help,” Matos said.

For more information, call 803-215-3263 or email

To check out more of Hammond's photography, visit

Maayan Schechter is the city beat reporter with Aiken Standard. An Atlanta native, she has a mass communications-journalism degree from the University of North Carolina Asheville. Follow her on Twitter @MaayanSchechter.