Friday, 4 September 2015

Syria: How you can help

I've remained ignorant of the conflict in Syria until this week. I'm living in a white, middle-class bubble in my privileged country, able to switch tv channels or turn off the radio and ignore bigger problems if I choose to do so. I justified this up to now by saying "I'm pregnant/breastfeeding and too emotional" or "I'm doing my bit by raising good children who will in turn make the world a slightly better place". In reality I was just scared of knowing how bad things were, and afraid that I'd feel helpless, depressed, guilty for my peaceful lifestyle etc. not wanting to leave my comfort zone.
Well, thanks to my Facebook feed, the one source of news I have, I've been jolted into reality this week. A sleepless night with my baby had me on and off Facebook in the early hours for something to do. I saw photos I will never erase from my memory. The skeptic in me told myself it's propaganda, set up to get sympathy, as I'd heard this about other photos. But there's no running from the reality now, and I'm resolved to help, as a fellow human to these people who are in a living hell.

I have no spare money this month, all the trappings of a white, middle-class, privileged lifestyle had me scrimping on my cash after paying out the annual car insurance, car tax, home insurance, a speeding fine etc. I was feeling hard done by that I would be buying "normal" bananas instead of Fairtrade ones to save money. What a fecking wake-up call. I am so lucky to be worrying about organic/non-organic produce and my grocery bill this month.

So I had no money to donate to any of the online campaigns, but I have lots of free time and energy to give. So from my bed yesterday morning while I breastfed my baby and got her dressed for the peaceful day ahead I made a few phonecalls to my local pharmacies. I'd come across the Dublin Calais Refugee Solidarity Facebook group through a few FB links and read the list of items they need to collect. These amazing volunteers (and their associates all over Ireland) are planning to travel to Calais at the end of September to the refugee camp, bringing essential supplies, cleaning the camp and showing the refugees that people DO care, even if political policies do not. Last week the camp got flooded, so they are trying to replace a lot of items. On the list (copied below) are hygiene items like toothbrushes, toothpaste, shampoo, soap, sanitary towels etc. I figured the best place to source them was pharmacies, and I was right. All I did was give my name, say I'm living in the area and collecting for the Syrian refugees, explaining what was needed and that it would be shipped to Calais at the end of the month. Without exception these business owners were delighted to help, and when I went to collect the donations today I was blown away by the generosity and thoughtfulness. Along with the above named items there was a box of medication (ibuprofen, lice treatments, first aid items) and other luxuries like hairbrushes, baby soothers, face cloths, sponges etc.   It took a little while out of my peaceful day to collect them all and load/unload my car with 3 healthy kids in tow, but it eased my first-world guilt a lot.

Thanks to Maxwells pharmacy in Templeogue, Haven Pharmacy Mc Laughlin's in Walkinstown, Haven Pharmacy Errigal in Drimnagh and Lonergan's Pharmacy and Health Store in Walkinstown.

I also put up a Facebook status that I was collecting for the refugees, and linked the list of items needed, asking friends in the area to drop donations in to me if they couldn't make it into the collection point themselves. I came home today after a blissful afternoon in South County Dublin and a Fairtrade banana/grocery shop to find two huge bags outside my door, and a neighbour dropped in two more this evening. Tomorrow I have the luxury of choosing whether to drive in to the city in my 7 seater with the donations, or letting a neighbour bring them in for me. She has been collecting all week too, using social media to ask her friends for donations and will be filling her van tomorrow with all the donated goods.

Yesterday as I didn't want to face the light rain and collect the donations on foot, not having the 7 seater, I spent the day going through our overstuffed wardrobes, cupboards and baskets, and collected 5 bags full of hats, jackets, clothes, shoes and boots, cleaning equipment and candles, things we never use and don't need, that have been surrounding us in our cosy, middle-class house for years. This is only a couple of weeks since I pared down my wardrobe and got 4 bags for charity. I am still surrounded by clutter as I write. We have so much.

And then today, after doing my "hard work" driving around collecting donations from the pharmacies in a 1km radius of my house, I drove to the sorting office and collected a new amber necklace for my baby (because using either of her brother's ones wouldn't be good enough for her) which cost me 10 euros online, plus my matching mommy necklace which cost 20 euros. Because her feeling pain from her teeth coming through is the biggest worry I have, obviously. And yet I hadn't a spare fiver this month for a refugee campaign...

So if I can do it, you can too.

Please see the list of collection points below, if there isn't one near you you can of course start one. Pick a few items off the list and gather them from your house, your friends', or phone shops and businesses, write them an email or letter to ask the bigger chains. Here is a link to the main campaign pageThere's a link to all the regional contacts here, or see the list below. If you want to donate money, here is the gofundme page. There is no middle-man taking a cut of the proceeds, every cent goes to the effort.

Collection Points In and Around Dublin 
------DUBLIN NORTH------
Jigsaw, 10 Belvedere Court
Every Saturday 10am - 4pm
Every Tuesday 6pm - 8.30pm
From 7 - 26 September
Contact Fiona Hickey on Facebook
Contact Valerie Carroll on Facebook or
Teresa on 085 7818010, Maria on 087 6696466
Contact Caroline McDermott on Facebook
------DUBLIN SOUTH------
Contact Julie Kelly on Facebook
Richard Boyd Barrett TD's Constituency Office
91 Lowe George's Street
Please call Karl Gill on 860667137 as hours may not be fixed
Barefoot Yoga & Fitness
Monday 6.30pm - 8.30pm
Tuesday 6.30pm - 8.30pm
Wednesday 6.30pm - 8.30pm
Thursday 7pm - 8.45pm
Fonthill Lodge Childcare
Monday to Friday 9am – 6pm
Fonthill Lodge Childcare
Monday to Friday 9am- 6pm
Fonthill Lodge Childcare, in SDCC beside library
9am -6pm
Contact Garrett Mullen on Facebook
Contact Eva C Scanlan on Facebook
Contact Ciara No Diggity Garry on Facebook or join the Drogheda Calais Solidarity Group
Contact Lynnette McGoey on Facebook or join the Navan Calais refugee solidarity Facebook Group
Greystones Village
Stephen Donnelly TD's Constituency Office
Church Road (little blue cottage beside Dart St.)
Contact Linda Mullen or Hazel Freeman Hayden on Facebook


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