It started with a picture of a small boy, dazed and bloodied, sitting in an ambulance after an air strike in Aleppo. It ended with almost 3,000 boxes and bags of direct aid leaving Clifden in The West of Ireland for Syria and Iraq. This is the story of what happened in between.
The Very Revd Stan Evans of Omey Union, and his wife Rosemary were so moved by the plight of people suffering as a result of Syria’s war that Stan came up with a plan: to gather and send warm clothing, blankets, duvets, crutches, walking aids to refugees looking down the barrel of a bitter winter in the camps of that region.
Stan contacted Samara Aid, a UK based relief initiative which uses ‘ Mission & Relief Logistics ‘ who are experts in transporting humanitarian aid to challenging places, to help with the logistics. Every parish in the diocese of Tuam, Killala and Achonry was asked to come on board to help collect the items needed. The seed was sown and exploded into life from parish to community. And all of a sudden the project took on a momentum of it’s own as the Great People of The West and folk as far away as Cork and Belfast caught the vision and weighed in with unbelievable enthusiasm and energy. Collection drop-off points were set up in towns and villages across Galway, Mayo and Sligo. It became a truly ecumenical response.
Christians Sans Frontieres!
The boxes and bags piled up and were brought by Charles Wills of Foxford to central distribution depots in Clifden, storage units provided freely by Liam Keogh and John Sweeny. Here, every single item was sorted and graded ( only the best qualified ) and packed and labeled. A little sticker was attached to each box: an Irish flag with the words ‘ From Irelande with Love ‘.
Teams of dozens of volunteers ( far too many to mention individually ) worked over a period of 6 weeks to get all in readyness,. They varied from FORUM of Connemara, to the local Fire Brigade and RNLI members, to the Community Warden who donated black sacks, to 2nd year Community School students Paul and Aodan and Kieron and Eddie, to the ‘ordinary’ people of Clifden. So much love. So much generosity. So much selfless sacrifice of personal time and effort. A local lady put it like this:
‘ Stan started telling us about Samara, that she said ‘What can I do to help?’ So she prayed for three days and then opened her bible and read ‘ Start gathering’ and thats what prompted her. And I thought to myself, ‘ If one woman could make a difference and God’s hand was in all of it…that’s what encouraged me.’
So on Monday 13th November 2016 a lorry load set off from Clifden Mart to a hospital in Syria. The following Wednesday another lorry set off to a camp outside Mosul, Iraq.
A story of Christians of all traditions working together to make a real, tangible and concrete difference.