Ireland sends large direct aid convoy to Syria
Ten 40-foot Human Appeal Ireland containers of supplies are bound for Damascus area
Volunteers loading a container for Human Appeal Ireland. The aid is going into the region around Damascus where there has been a large amount of displacement. Photograph: Cyril Byrne
Mohammad Abouhajar (24) is one of the lucky ones and he knows it. A civil engineering student from near Aleppo in Syria, he was reunited with his family in Portlaoise just a month ago. They’ve been resettled in Ireland for a year.
He hopes to continue his studies in Ireland.
Yesterday he was one of many volunteers at the JFK Industrial Estate in Dublin helping load one of 10 Human Appeal Ireland containers with supplies for his native country.
The aid convoy, from all over Ireland, sets off on Saturday October 31st for a four-week journey east across Europe.
“I’m helping here as a volunteer,” said Abouhajar. “I used do that in Syria. I did some work with Human Appeal.”
Fiona Duffy, of Human Appeal Ireland, said: “I imagine this is the largest convoy going from Europe into Syria”. She said that not alone had Irish people donated the goods they’d also raised funds to pay the shipping and other costs for all 10 containers.
“There are three here now, two en route this afternoon, two more in Carlow, one in Castlebar and two more in Cork,” she said.
Human Appeal Ireland has been assisting Syria since 2012. To date it has sent 25, 40ft containers of aid there, containing clothing initially, then medical supplies. “This aid is going into the region around Damascus where there’s a huge amount of displacement,” she said. “We partner with the Syrian [Arab] Red Crescent and they’re very familiar with where the aid is needed.”
Praise for volunteers
“The Tús people we’ve had through the Southside Partnership are just amazing. This wouldn’t be happening today without them,” she said.
Capt James Rice, from the Order of Malta Bray, said that over the last 18 months they’d collected, from hospitals around the country, “a lot of medical equipment like beds, wheelchairs, stuff like that, that won’t be used in Ireland but are very useful for refugees in Syria”.
Kevin Kelly set up “The Jacket Off Your Back” in Carlow with his wife a year ago this week that was intended “to get a few jackets to give to the homeless in Dublin and people sleeping rough”.
They’ve collected an incredible 1.5 million items of clothing, “So we decided to do something for Syria.”
“All vacuum-packed, all sealed in plastic bags, labelled in Arabic and English,” he said.
There too were Imam Hussein Halawa from the Islamic Cultural Centre in Dublin, Estelle Menton from the Jewish Representative Council, and Church of Ireland Canon Desmond Sinnamon, all members of Three Faiths (Judaism, Christianity, Islam) Forum of Ireland.
Ms Menton said “we’ve come to show our solidarity with what’s going on”. Canon Sinnamon was in Syria before the war. “I stayed in Yarmouk, the refugee camp there. It has been absolutely decimated.”
He also visited Maaloula, one of the oldest Christian communities in Syria and where they spoke Aramaic, said to be the language of Jesus.
“They lived in these rock caves in the hills, just between Damascus and Homs. It has been completely cleared out as a result of IS activities,” he said.