The aim of the event was to celebrate Syrian culture, raise awareness of what’s been going on in Syria, and gather support for our project to provide people fleeing the war with homes here in the London Borough of Richmond-upon-Thames. The evening was a great success, with over 150 attendees and a range of informative and inspirational speakers.
Whilst people arrived, networked, and ordered drinks, we heard some wonderful oud playing by Rihab Azar and viewed a slideshow showing pictures of Syrian places both before the war and as they currently are.
The first speaker of the evening was Baraa Esshan Kouja, a Syrian man who lives in Exeter. Baraa runs a London-based charity called ‘From Syria With Love’ (www.fromsyriawithlove.com). Throughout the evening paintings created by children currently in UN camps in Lebanon with the help of ‘From Syria With Love’ were on display, and Baraa showed a short film about these children, who desperately want to be in school but are having to work 10 to 12 hours a day just to survive. We also heard about a thirteen-year-old girl who tragically died while fleeing the war with her family, and about the plight of so many civilian men aged 18 to 35 who flee Syria because the alternative is to be forced to participate in the fighting.
Sue Jex from Care4Calais (www.care4calais.org) told us about their work providing supplies, education and social activities to refugees who have arrived ‘at the end of the road’ with nowhere to go. Audience members (and Sue herself) were brought to tears with the amazing stories of both the residents and the volunteers.
Tania Mathias, MP for Twickenham, then spoke about her work as a doctor with refugees and in warzones, and reminded us that despite the political turmoil at the moment, she and her colleagues are still prioritizing and working to support people caught up in the war in Syria.