A HENLEY man living in Iraq has helped provide clothes and food to more than 800 children orphaned
A HENLEY man living in Iraq has helped provide clothes and food to more than 800 children orphaned by so-called Islamic State.
Tom Robinson is the founder and director of the Rise Foundation, which distributes aid to refugees and provides doctors and funding for medical treatment.
The foundation is based in Erbil, the capital of the Kurdistan region of Iraq.
It was launched with the intention of helping Syrian refugees but now its focus has switched to those fleeing from the jihadist militants.
The charity launched an appeal at the end of last year to help orphans and female-led families in Ninawa in north-west Iraq.
Basic support packages included a family food package for £24, winter jackets for £10 and blankets for £11.
The appeal also helped to provide nappies, play equipment and mattresses. The charity’s volunteers reached hundreds of youngsters living with host families in Iraq by working with the Critical Needs Support Foundation, which supports refugees, children and women in the region.
Mr Robinson, 30, who has spent the last three years in Iraq, said: “The winter campaign was launched because we have experience working in the harder-to-reach areas where displaced people receive very little support.
“There are now 3.2 million displaced people in Iraq, the vast majority of whom do not live in camps.
“With the money we raised through private donors and crowdfunding, we have supported more than 800 orphans and their host families with food, clothing, heaters and fuel, hygiene kits and medical support.
“The campaign was a success overall but fund-raising efforts have been much harder recently because of the economic situation over here and interest from the West waning.”
Mr Robinson, a former student at Gillotts School and The Henley College, whose parents, Pip and Tony, live in Upton Close, Henley, said the foundation was now moving away from relief efforts to focus on gathering data to help redevelop war-torn areas of Ninawa instead.
He said: “Because of the relationships we have built over time, our access and network of key informants, Rise is in a strong position to attain information where others cannot.
“Much of this work occurs across the front line with ISIS and liberated areas of Ninawa.
“This information can then be fed back to the UN, other humanitarian organisations and any potential development body or donor.
“This was likely to be the last of our aid distribution efforts and I am now focusing almost exclusively on gathering information about the displaced population, those hoping to return to liberated areas, the critical needs for redevelopment and the priorities for humanitarian relief.
“Iraq is incredibly unstable with many state and non-state actors fighting their own battles.
“If redevelopment, mediation and social cohesion efforts are not made based on good information, it is likely that even after ISIS is defeated, conflict between groups will erupt.”