The Refugee Support Express – Highlights of 2017
Welcome to the Refugee Support Express
We wish you all a happy new year.
2017 was a tough year for mankind.
But in the face of everything, it was also a year of love; and we have been inspired and overwhelmed by the support we have received, and the selfless acts that we have witnessed others carry out to aid those in need.
We have had a big year. We said hello to three new camps and goodbye to one. We celebrated our first birthday in April, and became a registered charity in July.
The forecast of the future is uncertain. But as we buckle down to welcome the new year with love, understanding and solidarity, we invite you to reflect with us on last year’s highlights.
Following the camp’s set up in October 2016, the Ministry asked us to maintain a permanent presence at Filippiada camp.
From chaos, we took a disheveled warehouse and created rooms and spaces. It was during this fresh start at Filippiada that we developed our dignified mini-market and boutique model, which we would replicate in other camps in 2017.
2017 was not only a year for facilitating, furthering and feeding Filippiada, but for providing aid and joy in co-operation with other NGOs to the camp’s residents. In May, we built a playground for the children, and ran camp activities to boost morale and allow children to have a childhood.
Landing in LM Village
In April, we began our work at LM Village – an isolated camp with little in the way of support and opportunities.
Two weeks after we arrived, we set up an in-camp mini-market to prevent the camps 200 residents from having to travel 6 miles to the closest village with heavy produce. The shop stocks nutritious goods such as vegetables and staple Syrian foods so that the camp’s families can choose what they need, right from their doorstep.
In October, we set up the camp’s first clothes boutique. We continue to hire a weekly coach to transport up to 50 residents to local villages in order to stock up on valuable goods and supplies.
In June, after 15 months of hard-grafting, laughter, and learning, we waved goodbye to Alexandreia camp – as the time had come to focus our attention on those in greater need of aid. However, we didn’t go without leaving something behind.
During our 15 months at the camp, we built:
• a community kitchen for residents to cook hot, home cooked meals
• a mini-market for residents to pick and shop for their own goods
• a cafeteria for families to enjoy their food in each other’s company
• a playground
• a shop
• a library
• a warehouse
We also introduced:
• a language school to encourage linguistic education
• respite care for new borns
• festivals to help reintroduce joy and fun to peoples’ lives
• flower gardens to bring colour and tranquillity to the camp.
It has been an emotionally challenging year at Katsikas camp. Our dedicated volunteer team has been faced with uncertainty and disappointment, as the camp’s opening continued to be postponed, despite the urgent need to aid refugees fleeing from and being transported from Greece’s surrounding islands.
It has been hard to watch refugees suffer at less developed camps whilst Katsikas – built to provide ethical, humane and dignified aid – has been forced to remain empty.
Despite the many frustrating setbacks at the hands of others, however, our volunteers have worked tirelessly and selflessly- and we were relieved and proud to finally open Katsikas camp as it welcomed its first residents on 30 December 2017.
The camp that our volunteers, donors and colleagues have created in the face of so much uncertainty is nothing short of exceptional. Look at the smiles of our new residents as they settle in to their new homes!
Distributing in Doliana
In August, we began to support and distribute food to the 70 residents at the small camp of Doliana. This coincided with the launch of our Refugee Support tokens system, which allows residents to exchange free points in exchange for their chosen produce. Doliana was one of the first camps to experience the new tokens system – designed to make the experience of distribution more dignified and normal for refugees.
Branching out to Bangladesh
In the wake of the exodus of 600,000 Rohingya refugees from Myanmar to its surrounding countries in the summer of 2017, we moved to Bangladesh to assess how we can assist the victims of one of the cruelest humanitarian crises of our times.
John and his team arrived in Bangladesh in November. The enormous weight of the challenge ahead remains heavy, but here’s just a few of the incredible things that the team, led by Daniel Mendies, has done already:
• identified Tumbru camp as that in most urgent need of aid with dignity
• distributed crucial food packages to all members of the camp (including fresh fruit and vegetables) to tackle malnutrition and restore a healthy diet
• launched a pre-natal clinic for the 170+ pregnant women to ensure the health of the mother and child
Some 2017 Figures:
Residents: 300, 60% under 16
Distrbuted: £60,000 food, approx 15,000 items of clothing
Residents: 450, 40% under 16
Distrbuted: £50,000 food, approx. 12,000 items of clothing
Residents: 200, 50% under 16
Distributed: £30,000 food since April, approx. 2,000 items of clothing
Residents: 70, 50% under 16
Distrbuted: £10,000 food since August
Distributed: £12,000 food in one month, approx. 2,000 items of clothing
Residents: 170 and growing
Distributed: Welcome packs for every new arrival
We also supplied and continue to supply unlimited nappies, women’s sanitary wear and contraception to everyone who needs them.
Spreading the Word
We continued to share our message over the radio, over the internet, and over the world throughout 2017. In November, we launched our weekly Standing with Refugees podcasts, which share the inspiring and heart-breaking words and stories of other charities, advocates, volunteers, and most importantly, refugees themselves.
The team has presented at numerous events over the year – notably at the following:
• September’s Labour Party conference
• Various members of the team spoke at our October #AidWithDignity speaking tour at 19 different venues around the UK
With your help, we continue to spread the word of solidarity and support. This year, let’s make even more noise.
It’s easy to feel glum in a world of so much suffering. But there’s a huge amount that we can do to help, as you – our friends, volunteers, donors and colleagues – have proved in just one year.
So here’s to another year of standing side by side, standing by refugees, and more importantly, making a difference – no matter how small.
Thank you for reading, and we’ll see you next time.
Please contact us today at info@refugeesupport if you are interested in volunteering, making a donation, or just want to get in touch.