Tuesday, 28 September 2021

£7 blankets needed by refugees in Iraq

A HENLEY man is appealing for support for his charity, which helps refugees displaced by Isis in Iraq.

A HENLEY man is appealing for support for his charity, which helps refugees displaced by Isis in Iraq.

The Rise Foundation, which is based in Erbil, the capital of the Kurdistan region, distributes clothes and food to refugees and provides doctors and funding for medical treatment.

Founder and director Tom Robinson, 29, has launched a Buy a Blanket campaign to help refugees and internally displaced people in camps struggling to survive in Iraq’s harsh winter.

More than 1.3 million victims of the conflicts in Syria and Iraq have fled to northern Iraq.

Mr Robinson, a former pupil of Gillotts School and The Henley College, said: “Our winter campaign at its most basic level is to provide a blanket for each of the most vulnerable families in the region.”

Blankets cost just £7 each and are large enough to provide for whole families. Mr Robinson said: “The winter here is fierce, especially in the northern areas. It is the primary concern of everyone who has sought refuge in the area. Parents are genuinely fearing for their children.

“It rains hard and it is freezing — we saw the first snow over a month ago — and shelter is incredibly rudimentary. The hardship that both the refugees and internally displaced people are facing is unimaginable. One little girl we spoke to had lost all her family to Isis — 15 people — and had been taken in by an old woman. Another elderly lady had lost everyone and had no tent, so had taken shelter on the concrete floor of a communal kitchen, approximately 1.5m by 1.5m.”

The foundation recently distributed 5,000 blankets at a camp called Cham Mishko, which is home to 26,000 internally displaced people, mostly Yazidis who fled from Isis.

The western region of Dohuk, which is normally home to 1.3 million people, now supports at least 820,000 displaced Syrians and Iraqis. This figure is expected to increase as the victims of fighting in the Syrian city of Kobani arrive.

The foundation is also planning an airlift of blankets to the thousands of people trapped on Sinjar Mountain.

Mr Robinson said: “These people are facing perhaps the harshest conditions of all, especially as they are under continued attack and completely cut off from outside support.”

He began the Rise Foundation after taking a teaching job in Kurdistan at the Cambridge International School. He was helped by Amer Harky, a doctor from Erbil, who lived through Saddam Hussein’s campaign against the Kurds, and Cecily Cook, who lived in Erbil for several months while studying for a degree in Middle Eastern studies in Sweden.

As well as distributing aid, the foundation is continuing its bi-weekly film screenings in refugee camps, showing everything from Tom and Jerry cartoons to educational films on health and sanitation issues.

Other initiatives include the Castle Art project, which involves painting murals throughout Akre camp, depicting the stories of the refugees living there.

A Day in Their Shoes saw Kurds, Iraqis, ex-pats and Syrian refugees come together for a 50km sponsored walk between the Akre and Basirma camps to demonstrate solidarity for the plight of Syrians forced to flee their homes. The Green Project aims to bring environmental awareness to the camps by planting trees and teaching children about littering, a major problem in the camps.

To make a donation, visit www.rise-foundation.org/buyablanket

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