Mercy mission delivers aid to refugees

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A big-hearted Batley charity set off to Dunkirk on an aid-giving mission to help refugees who have fled their countries.

Three members of Sacred Giving, based in Bradford Road, transported around 3,000kg of donated clothes, blankets, food and other essentials to displaced families who have arrived in the French city.

Trustee Syed Mohammed Kamran Shah and fellow volunteers Tauseef Khan and Amar Ali set off last Friday and returned on Sunday evening.

Mr Shah said: “The conditions they are living in were a real eye opener. They have no electricity,There live in tents and have to travel for miles to get clean water.

“There’s no aid for the women, who live in a separate section of the camp and the children are forced to wear the same clothes week after week and there’s no possibility of babies getting the right food and the nutrients they need.

“We don’t realise just how easy we have it here. It’s heartbreaking to see people having to live like that when we have everything on a plate.

“It’s very difficult to see and makes you so grateful for everything you have.”

Mr Shah said they intend on going back to the camps in November and asked the families before they left what they need.

He said: “The main thing they need is warmth. They need things like blankets and warm clothing.

“We are also going to take over firewood so they can cook food. With there being no electricity, they aren’t able to cook a decent hot meal. We take over food in tins and packets, but this will enable them to cook their own hot food.

Donations poured in the from the community during the two to three weeks before the volunteers set off.

Around 220 food parcels, 200 blankets, 100 packs including women’s essentials and other aid packs were delivered after they took an early morning ferry from Dover in their vans.

The charity’s previous efforts have included them raising funds in the wake of floods in Pakistan, towards which £50,000 was contributed, as well as with issues affecting Palestine and Africa.

Part of the mission was to establish more specifically what the refugees need most, and then hopefully to travel back with more help.

“The lifestyle that we live, we get everything on a plate. We look at the children who travel for days without water – it eats at your heart. We have to give something back.

“There’s not much support for them, so it’s up to charities like us to go out there and help. It’s a real eye-opener. We live such lavish lifestyles compared to them, but you don’t hear them complaining at all. There wasn’t one kid there who wasn’t smiling all the time.”

Earlier this month Kirklees announced it will welcome more than 100 refugees during the next two years as part of the government’s plan to resettle 20,000 people in the country.

The 100 announced will be in addition to the two families who will arrive before Christmas as part of the Trail blazer scheme.

Council officers and partners in the voluntary and community sector are now continuing to work on plans to secure housing and, where necessary, school places and health support.

Homes will initially be allocated through Kirklees Neighbourhood Housing or a local registered social landlord.

Kirklees proposes to resettle 50-60 individual refugees in year one and a further 50-60 in year two. This will be reviewed moving in to year two.

Government will meet the costs for years one and two for the arrivals, supporting housing, orientation support, health and education costs. Staffing costs to cover administration of the scheme will also be met.

Further information on how local people can help support refugees is available on the council website www.kirkleestogether.co.uk