I only intended to write a few lines on the Syrian Refugee Fundraiser Festival page and ended up writing this….
All I can say to you all is please please share this.
I am in contact every week, sometime daily, with camps and those in Lebanon and Syria. There are some people stuck we cannot even get aid too all we can do is talk to them and hope that next time we message they will reply and aren’t dead.
I have seen pictures and heard stories I never dreamed in my worst nightmares I would ever see, hear or even have any knowledge of.
We get asked to help people we can’t help all the time and I have had to change the way my brain copes with things now in order to still be able to function and at least help some people.
The day I flew to Macedonia on a total whim (luckily supported by my husband and leaving my 2 year old son for 10 days first time) my life altered forever.
One minute I was sat at Stansted having a glass of prosecco contemplating how frightened I was at what I was going to do or see, then a few hours later I landed on a dark and misty night in Skopje, met someone I had only met once before and we drove through thick fog to a small station near the border of Serbia and Kosovo and within minutes I was preparing bread for soup for a train of around 1000 people arriving.
Changing nappies of wet and crying children, everyone coughing and searching for shoes or socks. Having to change the clothes of soaking wet kids with their parents. Being taken to dark UN tents (some hadn’t had their floors put in at this point) full of people in need who I had to try and help. We worked til around 5am that night and drove back to Skopje to sleep.
The next day we went aid shopping and I had a a lot of donations. Every night it was the same. The second night I crossed the border to Serbia (which I shouldn’t have done) to see the walk the people were making and it was horrific – disabled people being pushed in wheelbarrows as there were none, no light and no idea where they were going.
We travelled a few days later to Serbia: A Pakistani muslim, a Macedonian Jevoah’s witness and a C of E from Merseyside (me), where a few weeks previous the hotels and hostels had been full, before the camp opened near there for people. We checked the parks to see if anyone needed help. There was no one.
We drove the next morning to Slovenia where we arrived just before midnight. We drove to the Austrian border to Sentilj camp, the temporary station had just been opened there next to the camp to save the long walk in the freezing cold from where the real station was. After getting past the police and the army we convinced them to allow us in. It was HUGE. ANd in the huge tents was just people everywhere. I cried my eyes out. We had a tour from the Red cross of the medic areas, food areas and clothing and allsorts. And then we got told a train was coming.
I stood next to a pile of UNHCR blankets glistening with frost and around 12.30am a train arrived. whistles blew, people got off. They were made to line up and stand. I thought of what all the children must be thinking and how scared they must be and how their parents had no place to put them to bed, More whisltles, lights and loud orders. The column of people began to walk upwards towards the camp. The last person at the back was a small child Id estimate about 4-5 with a blanket over their head holding their parents hand. and behind them a police car with lights on and all I cant forget this child. I still freeze when I see children with towels over their head at the swimming baths and so on as I think always of this child and wonder where they are now.
We stayed in Slovenia, we got taken one night on to a disused dark supermarket with the army, authorities with generators and floodlights – this was an emergency site for some people they thought they couldn’t get a place for that night. In the end they didn’t need it but my what an experience that was. I also found NML (no mans land) between SLovenia and Austria awful – we weren’t allowed to feed people and we sneaked food to those we could. I gave all my warm clothes away to keep some little kids warm. We saw some kids there that we had clothed in Macedonia – many in the coats and gloves and hats we had put them in to keep them warm and dry.
We left around 3pm on the Tuesday and drove to Nuremburg where we arrived 3am stayed in a refugee centre there. It had a security guard as I am told they all do. You had to have a key to go to the loo, the place was clean and basic but at least safe. I looked at all the shoes outside each door on the doormats and wondered about all the stories the owners of them had to tell and where they had all come from. Some people had arrived that day who had been the few Syrian survivors of a boat sinking off Lesvos I think it was. I couldn’t imagine how I was under the same roof as someone who had suffered so much and lost so much and wouldn’t how would they ever survive the pain they must be feeling from a brokenheart at such loss.
We left there 8am, drove to Eurotunnel and Faisal dropped me at heathrow. He lent me his spare phone as mine had stopped working (to water damage from being in the camps when it was so damp it turned out) and I drove away in the hire car from heathrow around 111.30pm. I got home to Wrexham about 4.30/5am. I just sat quietly and then I went and got my son and brought him into our bed and hugged him tightly and hoped to god he would never see what those kids had seen or go through what they had been through.
I left my old life behind when I flew to Skopje I think. I feel if we cannot reach out to the vulnerable and those fleeing war, where we are able to do so, both in geographical and capability terms, we have lost our compassion and our ability to understand the world and humanity on a level outside of our day to day or local level.
Please help us to keep on helping. We have worked tirelessly since September on this, sometimes 12-14 hours a day sometimes way into the early hours.
We just ask you to give a few hours of your time on the 16th July to make a change for a lifetime for someone in need.
This fundraiser will be focussing on Lebanon and supporting Syrian women to start sustainable cooperatives/ initiatives which will allow them some way to sustain themselves and also look after their kids and reduce the abuse that is widespread amongst children who are vulnerable whilst their parents have to go and work for a pittance that barely even supports them. We know we can make a difference and we will with your help.
You cannot help everyone but you can help someone. To save one life means you save future generations. Working together brings people together and faiths together to show there is little that really stands between us all most of the time. We all cry tears, we all bleed blood, we all need love, food and care. And tonight and every night these things that you take for granted someone else somewhere is praying for.