Wolverhampton Loves Syria
Katy Cook Community Campaigns Coordinator for the Midlands
26th Jul 2013
Oxfam has brought it's Love Syria campaign to the Midlands! The campaign kicked off at 6.20am on Wednesday 25 July, with a radio interview on BBC WM. After an interesting chat and 2 mugs of coffee later, myself and Gurvinder - our Media Officer in the Midlands headed out on the road with our 4 ft "Love Syria" letters and 6 toilets in tow for our Wolverhampton photo call. Yes, I did just write toilets!
So, why toilets? Well, Oxfam is renowned for its water and sanitation work in emergency situations. A toilet is an everyday item, something that we might take for granted. Imagine what it would be like to flee your homes and settle somewhere where there is no infrastructure, no sanitation, no...toilets. This is the reality for 1.8 million people who are fleeing Syria because of the conflict. Yes, 1.8 million people. That is the combined population of Birmingham, Wolverhampton, Dudley and Sandwell. The toilets that were part of the photo call symbolise
the reality facing these people who have fled Syria over the past two years.
Staff and local campaigners arrived at the statue of Prince Albert to set up the photo call. The letters looked amazing against the local backdrop. People were intrigued and entered into conversations with us around the campaign - some asked "why Syria?", "why are you doing this in Wolverhampton?" and "how can I help?". Some amazing photos were taken on the day.
We followed up the photo call with a "Stories from Syria" talk in Wolverhampton on 27 July at the Lighthouse Media Centre. Jane Beesley has been working for Oxfam in Lebanon, capturing the stories of people who have had to flee their homes and leave their lives behind in Syria. Jane agreed to share these stories with Oxfam campaigners and fundraisers at the Stories
from Syria event. The two stories that really stuck in my mind were that of Amany and Reema.
Amany, a mother of five fled her home in Syria after it was bombed, destroying it almost entirely. Amany told Oxfam about how she'd come to live here:
"My husband had been working in Lebanon before the war. He always sent money home and we were always OK financially. We lived in a small studio apartment. When our home was bombed, all that was left was the kitchen. We moved to a place where there was no network and I couldn't contact my husband, it was really awful not being able to speak to him and he didn't know where we were. At first we were OK there but then the bombing started and we had to move on without my husband knowing. When we finally got to a place where I could ring him I told him we were coming to Lebanon.
We came here on a bus. There were a lot of checkpoints. I was very scared. It was the first time I'd travelled out of my hometown never mind Syria.
"All I really want is to live a proper life with my husband and children. I don't need anything fancy. I want to be back in Syria, living our lives how things were before the war."
Reema, a 12 year old refugee from Syria, said that her shoes were the only item she was able to take with her other than the clothes she was wearing, after her home was destroyed by an air strike.Jane met Shatha when visiting the region to document stories of Syrian refugees. Shatha told Jane:
"I was at school when it was bombed. Some of the children were killed. We all ran away. We left because we were afraid of the bombings in Syria. When we saw the bombing of the school we thought they bombed all schools all over the world.
"I miss my friends. I miss my teachers. I miss my classes, my English classes, my Arabic classes, my music classes. Now I'm just sitting here every day." Her mother adds, "She gets bored a lot and keeps crying. I don't let the children out on the street because I don't want them to have problems with other children and I'm scared they might fall and get hurt. I don't have money for any medical treatment.
"I don't have a pencil, no paper, no nothing. I wake up in the morning and I see children going to school and I cry, why don't I have the right to go to school? And I sit here and I remember our home back in Syria before the fighting."
Jane commented that everyone she met wanted to share something with her - their stories, their pictures and one little boy wanted to share his lollipop. The lives that these people have left behind are not so different from ours in the UK, we can resonate with them and show our support. The people that Jane spoke to were so grateful for the support from the British public
"Syrian people are escaping the war with just the clothes they are wearing and crossing the border to Lebanon with nothing else, so this kind of help is essential. First of all I'd like thank you for all the support you have given and but I want to call for more support and assistance - it's the only solution there is for Syrian refugees living here because we can't find work to support ourselves as we would wish. I want to thank the British people for being so kind to us"
Jane's talk was moving and inspirational. People who attended the talk commented that they had not heard the human side to the conflict and that this inspired them to take action.
How you can support the Love Syria campaign
You can take action straight away by:
- Donating to help Oxfam support those who need our help most.
- Signing the Syria petition and call for world leaders to keep their promise and hold peace talks without delay.
If you would like to find out how you can get involved with Oxfam in the Midlands, please call Katy Cook on: 0121 634 3611 or email: KCook@oxfam.org