Edinburgh Direct Aid (SC021007) is an all-volunteer organisation delivering aid to people caught up in war and natural disasters, and currently working mainly in Lebanon and Ukraine.
These young Syrian refugee children were born and raised in the miserable tented camp that can be seen behind them. The camp is in Arsal, a small township high in the Lebanese mountains and close to the Syrian border, across which their parents escaped the horrors of Assad’s war on his own Syrian people. For 10 years, Edinburgh Direct Aid has supported these 50,000 refugees by taking aid donated in the UK, by building schools and running one of them, by supporting a centre for children with special needs, by organising vocational training and maintaining a community centre. Interrupted by the pandemic, these activities are resuming and small businesses are active again.
Life does not hold out many opportunities for these Syrian refugees, nor for their Lebanese neighbours – Lebanon is a land of hyperinflation, political instability and shortages of all commodities, especially fuel. EDA always seeks ways of improving the often-fractious relationship between the Lebanese and the Syrians. Recent installation of solar power – for irrigation pumps, for schools, for the police station, has helped. When the port of Beirut blew up, as a result of an accidental warehouse explosion, Syrian refugees from Arsal were almost the first on the scene, and with EDA support, were building window and door frames and repairing houses in the poorest parts of the city, over many weeks.
And the introduction of library books for children, and music in schools in Arsal, initiated by Clea Friend and Nigel Osborne, has been inspirational. A high point has been a 2022 music festival, involving not just Arsal but also Baalbek and the Bekaa valley, which brought joy to thousands.
Since EDA is an all-volunteer organisation, nothing could be achieved without the hard work of so many willing people, who donate goods, money and time, who serve in our office and advise on our committee, and who go out to Lebanon to help and support the management group of Syrians in Arsal. Chief amongst these is Maggie Tookey.
But 2022 has also brought the horror of war in Ukraine. EDA could not resist the urgent call to respond to the need of so many in such a large country, terrorised by neighbouring invasion. Maggie was first there and taking funds donated to EDA, she was able to purchase food and medicines in the relatively unscathed west of Ukraine to deliver to devastated eastern areas, where so many aged and infirm residents remain, lacking the strength or the will to escape. Other EDA volunteers have followed in her footsteps and EDA hopes to maintain a presence in Ukraine, helping where we can, but never forgetting our obligations to our Syrian friends.
For further information please see the website – https://edinburghdirectaid.org
Written by Jeanne Bell, Deputy Chair, EDA