Community rallies to support Iraqi refugees

Bruce Davies writes:

In the darkness of a British January the thoughts of many are beginning to turn towards spring; lengthening days, clement weather and the notions of hope and well being that accompany this. For Chris and Lydia Mitton reports of the deepening crisis of displaced Iraqis and Syrians fleeing the grip of Islamic State, sparked thoughts of a different kind.

Video by Bruce Davies and Claire Bentley-Smith

For the thousands of refugees at the mercy of winter in Iraqi Kurdistan the possibility of death is ever present and it was this information that led the Mitton’s to start the Leeds2Iraq appeal. In collaboration with the Foundation for Relief & Reconciliation in the Middle East (FRRME, which is Canon Andrew White, ‘The Vicar of Baghdad’s’ charity) space was obtained on board a container taking cargo to the region and an appeal for winter clothing initiated.

Since the beginning of the appeal an overwhelming amount of clothes has been donated, in fact 72 cubic metres of clothing has been given largely by individuals beginning in the South Leeds area and spreading out to areas such as Horsforth, Rothwell, Harrogate, Woodside and Pontefract.

Such has been the generosity of spirit shown by the people of Leeds it has taken the best part of three days last weekend (24-26 January 2015) for large teams to sort the clothes into practical packages for children, adults, ladies, men etcetera; and peopled entirely by volunteers from the community. Seeing the activity occurring at St Luke’s over the course of the weekend as people from various different faiths, communities and backgrounds combined their efforts was an object lesson in humanity, a display of magnanimity that crushes the philosophies of tyranny.

So many donations have been received – an amazing 3.9 tons – that the original plan may now change with Leeds sending a whole container. As South Leeds Life went to press decisions were still being taken, but the clothing will be sent either Erbil, Sinjar or Dohuk.

Ed Carlisle, one of the volunteer co-ordinators said:

“The response has been truly overwhelming – not just the donations, but the amazing volunteer team that came together over this past week to sort and pack it all up. People from all walks of life, most of them from south Leeds, grafting together for whole days to pull off a pretty massive challenge. It was hard work, but inspiring being amongst great people, and for a really good cause.”


Photo slideshow by Claire Bentley-Smith