World Humanitarian Day

Happy “World Humanitarian Day” everyone!

We don’t normally go in for self-aggrandising but today seems like an appropriate moment to acknowledge the fact that Aid Convoy would not have achieved what it has – and indeed would not exist at all – were it not for volunteers.

Over the years, hundreds of people have devoted their time, energy, and resources to our projects. We like to think of what we do as “sharing”, as much as “donating”. And often we have witnessed our volunteers giving far more of their own resources than they have collected from fundraising efforts. It’s been very moving at times (and sometimes we’ve had to step in and urge people to pace themselves). It’s common for people to extend their commitment beyond what they initially envisaged, because the work can be quite addictive. Many regular volunteers spend their entire annual leave from work involved in projects. One of the advantages of the convoy model is the team spirit and camaraderie which also gives the ability for peer-support and keeping a healthy eye on each other.

So today, since it is World Humanitarian Day, we thought we’d acknowledge those people who really have gone way above and beyond the call of duty. We won’t make a list of names because that would upset some of the people involved who really don’t do it for any kind of personal gain. But they know who they are: donors, drivers, collectors, knitters, nurses, suppliers, dancers, musicians, pharmacists, clowns, photographers, manufacturers, all of you — thank you.

Finally let’s mention too that World Humanitarian Day is being used to highlight a vital issue: that the risks to humanitarians have never been more serious. Attacks on aid workers are increasing. People are regularly caught in dangerous situations and are not respected in the way that perhaps battlefield medics, for example, once were. The red cross, red crescent, and red diamond symbols are no longer avoided by those firing missiles. Ambulances we have donated to Gaza and Syria have been actively targeted in attacks designed to destroy hope. Kidnappings are a routine source of funding for many armed groups. Local volunteers from beneficiary countries are at risk as well as foreign expatriates. And this problem is exacerbated by the inexcusable abuse of the status of humanitarians. Those who used the cover of a vaccination campaign to gather intelligence in Pakistan are highly culpable in this; the controversy over the current Russian aid convoy to Ukraine also demonstrates the issue and dilutes faith in aid operations. Neutrality and independence are vital and we should never stand for any military or government agency, or indeed political or religious campaign group posing as aid workers or manipulating deliveries under any circumstances.

Long-term Palestinian refugees

The Shatila refugee camp, in Beitrut, Lebanon has been hosting Palestinians since 1949. Obviously such a lifelong displacement wrought havoc with the refugees’ careers and livelihoods. Always hoping to return home, and in some cases having no basis on which to start a new life in their host countries, these refugees have had an impoverished existence. Like their fellows in Syrian camps, such as at Latakia (which we visited in 2010), they are also gravely threatened by the present wars in the region.

Setting off tomorrow (25th July 2014), the Creative Humanity Partnership will be taking a convoy to the Shatila refugee camp. Their convoy includes one of our former colleagues with whom we have worked in Gaza, and we wish them the very best of luck carrying much-needed basic supplies to this deeply deprived long-term refugee camp. They are particularly focusing on items for children there, and will be including everything from sports equipment to nappies! There will also be educational and play items for children, and clothing for children and adults.

You can find out more about the organisation on their Facebook page.

They’ve also made a great video trailer for their project, partly using some footage from their previous, pilot trip.

(If the video loads slowly from our server, you can try directly on a dedicated video site, vimeo.)