Specialist Joinery Group raised £50,000 for Syrian Refugees and send 4 40ft containers of aid to the Greek Islands.
It was early September. Staff had returned to work from our final week of summer holidays. Those with children had ushered them back to school prepared for the new term. The mood was buoyant. Suddenly, our familiar daily routines were interrupted by the tragic image of drowned infant Alan Kurdi on the shores of the Greek island of Lesbos.
This image became the defining symbol of the plight of Syria’s refugees. The image resonated with our team, causing us to reflect on our lives and realise just how much we take the comfort of our daily routine, family life and indeed basic human rights for granted. As a team, we felt morally compelled to help.
Who, what, when, where, how?
We made contact with UN representatives and the Irish Embassy in Greece to broaden our understanding of the deepening crisis and mass migration of Syrian people. We identified the Greek Islands of Kos and Lesbos as areas needing urgent assistance. Vast numbers of people were arriving daily on small overcrowded boats from Turkey. Such were the numbers passing through, local supplies of food and clothing were exhausted.
On the 8th September we set up a meeting with Saint Vincent De Paul President Aidan Crawford who was coordinating a network of donation centres across the island of Ireland under the auspice of Saint Vincent De Paul International. The centres were being inundated with donations of clothing and food from the general public. Volunteer groups were sorting the goods and getting them ready for transit. However, they had not yet identified how they would transport the goods to Greece. At the meeting we agreed with Mr Crawford that Specialist Group would provide funding, transportation and logistical support to enable the aid collected by SVDP to be delivered to the Greek Islands as soon as possible. Our target was to provide four complete 40ft containers of aid filled with clothing, food and survival supplies.
Our commitment to the project:
- Send 4 complete 40ft containers of aid to Greece, make all arrangements with customs and freight forwarders for the safe transit of the goods.
- Raise as much funding as possible to donate to Saint Vincent De Paul – Syria Appeal
- Seek financial support and donations from our local community and supply chain partners.
- Establish a warehouse at Specialist HQ to sort and pack the containers for despatch.
- Appeal to our local Schools for donations of food to include in the cargo.
The Volunteer Ethos – Awesome generosity from Supply Chain Partners and Local businesses.
The network of businesses, family and friends of Specialist Group provided tremendous support to the appeal. We received an overwhelming response of donations including fleece lined winter coats, sleeping bags etc. Others chose to pledge monetary donations and some volunteered their time to the appeal spending hours sorting, packing and preparing the containers for despatch.
The 160 strong Specialist Group workforce volunteered to donate one full day’s wages to the appeal to finance the purchase of aid supplies and this donation was then further matched by Specialist Joinery Group.
The aid appeal started on the 8th September and loading of four containers was completed on 29th September. The convoy was followed by the volunteer team who ensured that the aid was distributed properly.
We received amazing contributions received from the pupils and staff of Sperrin Integrated College, Saint Patrick’s College, Maghera, Saint Mary’s, Clady, Glenview Primary School, Moneyneena Primary School and Ballynease Primary School.
Preparing the Containers
Each container was loaded with clothes and shoes, fleece-lined water proof jackets, tents, sleeping bags, blankets, tinned fruit and vegetables, baby wipes, nappies, toiletries, rice and water. They were loaded at Specialist HQ and despatched to Dublin port for transit to Greece.
Distributing Aid on the Ground
To ensure the effective distribution of aid to those who need it most, Saint Vincent De Paul coordinated a group of Volunteers from Northern Ireland who would follow the aid convoy to Greece. The Group was led by Aidan Craword Northern Region President and they witnessed the benefit of our donations and witnessed the gratefulness of those who received our help. In Kos and Lesbos, the groups worked 12 hours shifts on the beach to provide assistance to families landing on the shore. People were immediately offered dry clothes and food. They have described the emotions of Refugees as they landed on the shore, seeing that people were ready to help.
What was achieved?
- Over £50,000 raised by Specialist Group, staff, supply chain and family.
- The Group of local Saint Vincent De Paul volunteers travelled to Greece to distribute the aid appropriately
- 4 complete 40ft containers of aid were sent to Kos, Lesbos & Greece in just under 3 weeks
- Able to assist local community groups by quickly distributing their aid
- Avail of the established partnership with local schools and colleges to gather donations of food from students
- Specialist Joinery Group received an award of special recognition from Saint Vincent De Paul