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Help for freezing refugees

February 4 - 10, 2015
Gulf Weekly Help for freezing refugees

Gulf Weekly Kristian Harrison
By Kristian Harrison

A SUPPLY of much-needed supplies for desperate Syrians who have fled their war-torn country will be winging their way to camps in Lebanon thanks to an inspired community effort.

An initiative led by Reception teacher Alyaa Bataineh has been supported by pupils, parents and members of staff at St Christopher’s School, alongside a humanitarian charity and a logistics company with a Bahrain base.

The blankets and winter clothes will assist families sheltered in tents made from plastic sheeting who have been shivering through the nights after a deadly snow storm recently hit the Bekaa Valley.

Alyaa has lived in Bahrain for 15 years and was previously a student at St Christopher’s herself. She is the daughter of an English mother and Jordanian father and regularly visits relatives in the region. It was after her latest trip over the festive period that the idea to start the collection was sprung.

She said: “Jordan, Syria and Lebanon were hit with one of the worst snow storms they have seen in a long time. It was so difficult to think of the struggling people that were living in tents trying to survive in freezing temperatures.

“It was clear that something had to be done. The heavy snowfall had even collapsed some of their tents forcing them into emergency shelters.

“After researching the different refugee camps, we found out that the biggest need was in Lebanon, where there are nearly one million refugees in dire need of help. Those in Jordan had just received some aid from the UAE and appeared to be in better conditions than those in Lebanon.”

The school has partnered with the Bahrain Red Crescent Society. Its representatives will personally distribute the goods to ensure the collected items go exactly where intended, as well as providing medical and humanitarian aid.

Furthermore, logistics company DHL agreed to sponsor the considerable cost of shipping and delivering the donated items to Beirut, which consists of more than a hundred boxes.

A team of project assistants have worked tirelessly since the initiative began as donations flooded in. Money was also offered and the volunteers used the BD1,000 received to buy more blankets and clothing to add to the supplies already collected.

Alyaa says that she was staggered by the response and the collection exceeded all her expectations, particularly as busy parents themselves came in to the school to volunteer their help.

She explained: “We agreed that the collection would be limited to run over the course of one week since our main priority was to get the warm clothes and blankets to the refugees as soon as possible. We had collection boxes at the Saar and Isa Town campuses and parents could drop things off at any time.

“By the first day of collection alone, I was completely overwhelmed with the number of items that had come in. The response was incredible and it was evident that this was going to be a really successful drive.

“Every day, a group of parent volunteers would dedicate their time to sort through all the items and organise them accordingly. We as a school wish to extend our sincerest thanks to them as without them, this would not have been possible.”

After the official handover of the collection to the Bahrain Red Crescent Society last week, Alyaa was keen to emphasise that this appeal was not a one-off and the school would continue to pursue opportunities to aid the less fortunate.

She said: “The school is extremely involved with community service. It is important to us that children from Nursery through to Sixth Form understand the importance of helping the less fortunate. Our Senior School has previously worked alongside the Red Crescent to raise money and support them, so it was great to partner with them again.”

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