ISLANDERS are this weekend being urged to go along and support a fundraising event for a charity set up to raise humanitarian aid for those affected by the devastating three-year conflict in Syria.
Annalie Irvine, who lives in Bigton, has organised a sale of “very good quality” clothes and other items at Islesburgh Community Centre in Lerwick between 12 noon and 4pm on Saturday (2 August).
All proceeds will go to the Hand in Hand for Syria charity, which ensures emergency aid reaches those most in need in Syria, irrespective of politics or religion.
Irvine said the UK-based charity sends trucks of aid into the stricken country, where it is estimated more than 146,000 people have been killed since 2011, and delivers it to around 90 per cent of the country.
“Please come along and help raise money for the people living inside Syria,” she said. “They need medicine, food, clothes and support – they are in desperate need of your help.
“We’re all human beings, we’re all living on this planet, we’re all after the same thing which is not to be suffering, to be happy, to have a happy family and have our children safe.”
The 37 year old, a part time music teacher and mother of three, said she was spurred into action during the winter when she saw footage of Syrians who didn’t have the clothes and blankets needed to keep themselves warm.
“We have so much disposable stuff that’s really good,” Irvine said. “You go to Tesco and buy a perfectly good jumper for £4 or a t-shirt for £2, and things have become completely disposable now.
“It was a Syrian winter and they didn’t have blankets and jumpers, and I thought ‘how can we get the complete excess over there?’”
She initially hoped people’s spare clothes and other items could be transported directly to Syria. But having investigated the practicalities, Irvine realised it would be too difficult to find someone to distribute the aid within the country.
Instead the proceeds from tomorrow’s sale, which she says will include beautiful second hand adults and children’s clothes (as well as toys and baby items), will go directly to Hand in Hand for Syria.
“They try to make it so that people can stay in Syria rather than going to any of the refugee camps, where it’s just a nightmare,” she explained. “They’re trying to rebuild a hospital at the moment, and have set up a blood bank because blood is really difficult to get a hold of.”
The charity’s website states that it does not subtract anything from donations to cover admin costs: “If you donate £1 to Hand in Hand for Syria, £1 goes into Syria.”
It was the first to provide humanitarian assistance, in the form of food aid, to Yarmouk, a besieged area of Damascus, in January this year. It seeks to fund projects to empower communities to help themselves.
The statistics about the misery endured by the Syrian people in recent years make for grim reading.
The United Nations estimates that some 2.5 million people have sought refuge outside of the country – doing so at the staggering rate of 4,110 a day in the past year.
UNICEF figures suggest that nearly three million children have been displaced, and the agency is warning of a “lost generation” with hundreds of thousands growing up without proper access to food, healthcare or education.