A Syrian Refugee Support Advent Calendar 2016

Chocolate advent calendars are not a tradition in Albania and I haven’t done them neither when I was a student in Paris. So they are a relatively new thing for me. I haven’t yet introduced them to my children and I am not sure I will anytime soon (I know of many grown ups trying to break away from constant chocolate desire).

Instead of the traditional chocolate calendar I have seen other examples of advent calendars with “acts of kindness” each day in December until Christmas day. I like the alternative ideas on the traditional take and I thought that I would write my own advent calendar in support of something that occupies my mind a lot at the moment.

In the face of the “worst humanitarian” crisis in Syria since WW2, I have been having a full range of emotions about the hundreds of thousands of children and people suffering from this dreadful conflict. Feelings going from extreme sadness, to despair, to feeling powerless and guilty and unable do anything to change the situation. I am sure so have felt many other people.

But one morning on the way to work I decided that instead of “feeling bad” and doing nothing, I would do something each day that can help or contribute in alleviating somehow the situation of innocent civilians trapped in a war between extremist factions of a divided society.

So here is my Syrian Refugees Support Advent calendar 2016 with some real examples of things we can do everyday to help a little. The situation is terrible and desperate for millions of people, and having a comfortable and peaceful life, feels like “the best and the worst thing” we could have whilst others cannot have.


This is my list of actions:

1 – I decided to help Samara’s Aid Appeal, founded by Samara a mother from Brighton, in 2013 to supply Syrian refugees with items of clothing and shoes to keep warm while living in tents in the winter.

2 – I wrote to my MP Rosena Allin-Khan asking her to support the petition to airdrop aid to starved cities in Syria.

3 – I met with another mum from NappyValleyNet (our local online forum) to talk about solutions and doing things together to help refugees

4 – I dropped off our baby clothes and clothes from a friend at the Balham Vineyard Church in response to Samara’s Aid appeal December collection

5 – Attended Samara Levy’s address at the Balham Vineyard church to hear her talk about how she has set up Samara’s Aid Appeal and has done am amazing contribution for the past 3 years to desperate and vulnerable people in Syria and Irak.

6 – Made a donation to a local Syrian refugee fundraising event at the Tooting Tram and Social although we didn’t attend the event (hope it was fun 🙂

7 – Booked tickets to see Vanessa Redgrave film “Sea sorrow” on the refugee crisis at the Battersea Arts Centre. All ticket receipt will go to the UNHCR

8 –  Registered with Wandsworth Welcomes Refugees email address that updates on local initiatives and activities about helping refugees.

9 – Registered with Refugees at Home on Facebook and email address to register my interest to host refugees that could be matched to us in Tooting.

10 – Called the Foreign Office and wrote to the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Boris Johnson to support the safe passage of trapped civilians in Eastern Aleppo.

11 – Shared my activity on the NappyValleyNet forum where a number of local mums are discussing the issues around refugee crisis and how we can help.

12 – Made a donation to Syrian Refugees Blanket Fundraiser that is raising funds to buy blankets for Syrian refugees based in Jordan.

13 – Read about the Syrian conflict trying to understand the parties involved and especially who are the rebels and the Western countries foreign policy in the region in the last 20 years.

14 – Had a hard time sleeping after seeing photos of dead babies, and parents following the intensification of the war in Aleppo. I only calmed down after finding peace in sending prayers and thoughts to those affected.

15 – Called the Foreign Office and the Russian Embassy to make my concerns known about the current crisis.

16 – Helped load the lorry of donations for Samara’s Aid Appeal for Syria and Irak, from Balham Vineyard Church. 1200 packages were collected, next round will be in January.

17 – Considered joining a protest at the (empty) Syrian embassy in London but was confused about who was holding it and when (and didn’t go in the end).

18 – Went to the screening of Vanessa Redgrave’s Sea Sorrow with 2 Albanian friends and spoke in the audience and to organisers afterward looking for ways to do something more. This fundraiser raised £1.5k for UNHCR.

19 – Called Caras, a local charity in Tooting working with refugees and asylum seekers to become a volunteer with them.

20 – I called and wrote an email to a local councillor, Candida Jones who organised the Vanessa Redgrave screening at the Battersea Arts Centre about facilitating a mum’s friend application to foster a Syrian child (she was turned away from the council).

21 – Organised a meeting at work to start “Refugee conversations” with refugees and asylum seekers in our work offices to help with English and general social and cultural understanding.

22 – Donated to the DEC Yemen Crisis Appeal

Looking for an inspirational quote to conclude, “the Ripples of Hope” from Robert F. Kennedy seemed appropriate.

“Each time a man (and a woman I hope) stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”

Urgent: Aleppo, a letter to Boris Johnson, U.K. Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

Yesterday after the shocking reports of 100,000 civilians trapped in Aleppo i wrote this email to the foreign secretary (after calling and being advised to send my concern by email). 

This morning I was pleased to read that a deal had been agreed but unfortunately it wasn’t long and shelling started again. Seeing photos of dead babies, dead parents, bodies on the streets is filing me and so many of us with sadnes and despair. We are trying to do something, donate, help collect funds, contact MPs, the government but this is a war and the parties involved are not shocked or hurt by the thousands of deaths. What can we do? 

This has been such a traumatic period for these people but also us powerless outsiders who are not able to force our politicians to stand up to Putin, Assad and Iran and reverse a dreadful situation of a war that is killing hundreds of thousands of people. Politics has failed Aleppo abd this is so sad. 
To the attention of the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, RT Hon Boris Johnson MP

Hi Mr Johnson, 

I called the Foreign Office this afternoon to make my concern known to yourselves about the situation in Syria. I have been informed by grass root organisations in Syria as well as the general media about the recent violent and deathly attacks on civil populations in Aleppo, perpetrated by the Syrian government forces in an attempt to control rebel-held areas of Eastern Aleppo.

We were warned by the UN of this coming attack last week, as something the Syrian government forces were intending to do in order to gain control of these areas before the change in administration in the US. There were several severe warnings by the UN but nothing was done. And here we are, one week later and people have been killed in their homes, on the spot as reported by the media today.

What has the UK government done to stop these attacks on civilian populations? What has the Foreign Secretary done to make sure innocents are protected?

Furthermore what are the Foreign Secretary’s plans to make sure these attacks don’t continue?

Grass root organisations in Syria are calling for a UN evacuation plan to secure safe passage 100,000 civilians trapped in Aleppo, including humanitarian workers. I understand that there is a UN plan to get, the trapped people out across the four kilometres of Western Aleppo to safety: with a few dozen buses and lorries people could be evacuated in twenty four hours. However, the international community needs to guarantee their safety.

I am writing to you today to make sure you contribute to this call and make sure a safe passage is provided for these people to flee their deaths.

They need all our support and help, this is a desperate situation in the face of which politicians and the UK government have failed to respond and engage. This will be a shameful legacy for you all.

I hope you can respond to this and help save thousands of lives, to survive in this dreadful conflict that has displaced millions and has caused world wide turmoil.