Early in July our project team once again went to Cluj-Napoca for the third year running. A team of 12, made up of students and recent graduates, spent 10 days working alongside the local project staff who are focused on changing the future prospects for the next generation of Roma gypsy children living next to the city rubbish dump. Emanuel who was returning with the team for the second time shares his impressions of the project.
On 7th April, our group of nine volunteers with Agapé Student Life came from across the UK to Thessaloniki, to join the GAiN project not knowing fully what to expect. We arrived to a former army airfield, and the first thing we saw was a children’s playpark, something that none of us expected. As we began a quick tour, it was clear that the children were the life and soul of the camp – and often a source of much entertainment.
Nearly six years of war in Syria has left 6.3 million people displaced and 470,000 have lost their lives. It can be hard to make sense of the individual impact in the face of abstract numbers. In the last few weeks one of our team was able to spend time with people whose lives have been forever changed by this conflict. Amira* shares in her own words both the trauma and triumph of continuing to live one day at a time.
More than 148,000 people have now been displaced, according to UN Two and a half years of atrocities, the rules and the imposed way to live their lives still in their eyes and minds, and the sound of bombings and gunfire is still fresh in their ears. Our disaster team visited one of the 25 day old camps and distributed packages of clothing, baby food and tea to more than 1,500 families. The clothes are desperately needed because the temperature drops at night to zero degrees Celsius
Every piece of clothing, every blanket, every care pack we can give is another piece of love shared with those who need it most. We want to thank every single person who was part of our recent Iraq Winter Relief appeal , it couldn’t have happened without you.
Families who have fled their homes find themselves struggling through the winter months in make shift shelters. Through our partners on the ground in northern Iraq we are distributing regular food parcels to families in need as well as clothes, heaters and mattresses. During September and October we are running an appeal to send winter essentials to refugees. You can be a part of collecting these items together with others you know where you live, work, pray or play.
At the start of August our GAiN team joined with over 6000 young people at a showground in Norfolk for a weeklong event called newday.
With more than 160 boxes crammed full of warm clothes ready to send with a handmade card, it was amazing to see so many of the young people engage in this project and see the practical difference they can bring.
In March 2016 Macedonia closed their border with Greece, leaving thousands of refugees stranded on the Greek side with no where to go. They couldn’t go forward, they couldn’t go around, they couldn’t go back. People congregated around the former entry checkpoint and an unofficial camp was formed, Idomeni. On Monday 23rd May, the army informed the refugees they would be moved from Idomeni. At dawn the next day, the army moved in in riot gear. Journalists, NGOs and the public were banned from seeing the process. Our group from GAiN were volunteering in a Hotspot while this process was happening.
Since the earthquake on 25th April 2015 a further 500 aftershocks were recorded that continued to hamper people’s return to daily life. The shocks in Nepal this past year have not only been physiological, but also political as the country sought to draft a new constitution and faced fuel blockades along their Indian border putting the country into further crisis.
The tent villages of Kurdistan are where the conflicts within Syria and Iraq spill over into human suffering as debris from the ongoing violence.
Through the funds raised in our recent Blanket Appeal we were able to help provide 200 blankets and 90 bags of lentils to more than 30 Syrian and Iraqi families finding refuge in Erbil. Many of these families are living in tents around the city wherever they can find space to camp. They have faced a harsh and difficult winter especially with temperatures dropping to – 4⁰ at night.
For many of the families continuing to find refuge in Kurdistan it is simply a case of surviving. They have already made it through one cold winter and blistering summer, only to face yet another winter away from the places they call home. They lost their homes, their professions and livelihoods. For most of them there is no going back. The number of refugees is remains high with 2 million in Kurdistan alone. One family shares their story of fleeing to Erbil and the reality of their lives to this day.
One of our UK volunteers, Katie Lowe, recently attended our disaster response training in Latvia and shares about her experience. “For me personally, DART was so much more than the actual training itself. I developed practically, socially, relationally, spiritually and mentally. I have never before felt every value, goal and practical action that I aspire to, so closely mirrored by an organisation and group of people. To see unconditional love actioned so tangibly and professionally was a privilege. I left the training with confidence in my skills and 20 new friends.’
The crisis of migrants travelling to Europe has hit the headlines in recent weeks as they desperately seek to find refuge away from a war zone that was once their homeland.
What is it that pushes people to extremes, taking their lives in their hands as they seek safety in another land?
We often think of poverty in material terms, our teams recent visit to Romania saw how a lack of purpose can add to the depth of poverty. Working with a Roma community who make a livelihood from whatever rubbish they can sell. The closure of the city dump they rely on was an even bigger impact on their day to day survival.
On April 25th, a powerful 7.8 earthquake devastated Nepal. Our in-country partners who were already working in Nepal have been responding ever since the earthquake, bringing immediate relief to those in desperate need. The figures continue to tell of the scale of the disaster with over 8,300 people known to have been killed in the earthquake and following aftermath.