Support for Syrian Refugees
Arsal is a town on the Syrian border, high above the Bekaa valley,
on which EDA has focussed its main humanitarian effort over the past three years.
EDA's 4th 40-foot, 10 ton, shipping container left for Arsal, Lebanon, on Thursday Sept 24th, full of clothes,
boots and shoes for the coming winter; also toiletries, school things, knitted teddies, baby things.
And 25 carefully checked sewing machines, fabrics, haberdashery and knitting wools for the women's self-help groups among the refugees,
and for EDA's vocational training courses.
The container arrived in Beirut on October 23rd and was cleared by Customs on Nov 13th in good time for distribution before the winter really took hold
(as it has now done with a vengeance).
But on the very day that the container was released by Customs, a suicide bomber in Arsal blew up 5 Muslim clerics
who were trying to negotiate the release of Lebanese army soldiers kidnapped by ISIS.
Getting anything done after this terrible event and in the ensuing security clampdown seemed an almost impossible task.
But EDA volunteer Maggie Tookey successfully managed the delivery and distribution of the container goods,
eventually overcoming all obstacles put in her way,
while remaining within the restrictions imposed by Lebanese security for her own safety.
For a gripping, day by day account of this delivery, please go to
Maggies Dec 2015 Arsal Diary.htm
For more details of current and recent EDA work in Arsal, please see
Arsal Main Story
Helping refugees in transit in Europe:
Hundreds of thousands of Syrian and other refugees are making their way through SE-Europe, overcoming many difficulties and privations along the way,
hoping eventually to find safety and settlement somewhere in the West.
They migrants are often trapped in awful circumstances,
ranging from terrible shelterless muddy fields surrounded by barbed wire,
to endlessly waiting trains with nothing for their comfort.
Meanwhile decent people from every country of Europe try to help.
EDA has taken a part in these efforts, supporting the work of two other
organisations from our own city, 'Edinburgh Cares' and 'React Now'
who have sent a number of aid missions to refugees passing through the Greek islands, Hungary, Serbia and Croatia.
Maggie Tookey and John Home Robertson visited the island at the end of September, to survey and determine possible roles for EDA,
and bringing funds for immediate action.
They found that the situation on a 5 mile stretch of beach on the north coast of Lesbos, was terrible.
Tiny boats packed with anything up to 60 people, just kept coming - 5,000 a day arriving on inaccessible beaches linked only by a rough mountain track.
No place for a tiny Hyundai hire car! -- but Maggie and John decided
nevertheless to use it to transport people the eight miles to the nearest reception center, and spent most of their time on Lesbos doing so (incredibly, the car survived this treatment!)
Maggie wrote "At one point I had 10 people in my car - 4 adults in the back, 2 in the front seat with me and 2 babies and a toddler on laps in the back.
The 2 babies I managed to stuff in through the back window at the last minute to be reunited with their mothers - all soaking wet, cold and
traumatised by their 6 mile journey across from Turkey in a boat that was dangerously full of water on arrival at the beach.
For the privilege of taking this journey they had each paid smugglers around $1300.
The PIKPA Refugee Camp:
This is where a number of the most vulnerable, injured, boat wrecked, orphaned, pregnant refugees arriving on the northern beaches end up.
It is run entirely by an admirable group of Greek volunteers
who receive very little financial support and yet provide a lifeline for this most vulnerable group.
Maggie and John were really impressed by the camp, and decided
that the best use for the money which EDA had provided them for Lesbos would be to support PIKPA. This is what the €4000 bought:
a 2 months supply of fresh food/vegetables, chickens and eggs (some to be delivered later);
a 3 months supply of olive oil/cooking oil;
A water filtration system to create a supply point in the camp for clean, safe drinking water;
Basic medicines and dressings;
Cement and aggregate to construct wheelchair ramps to provide access for the many disabled people coming in.
We think this was good value for our donors' money!