South Norfolk mother's plea for refugee aid
When Wymondham mother-of-two, Alison Marlow, saw the graphic news reels of Middle Eastern refugees living in sub-zero temperatures, her heart burned with compassion – especially for the barely-clad children and helpless babies. Sandie Shirley reports.
She turned her burden of care over to God, wanting to do more than pray. Two years later she is a vital channel for material aid, having sent 550 boxes of quality clothing to the vulnerable and overlooked, after joining national Christian charity, Samara’s Aid Appeal, as a registered collector.
Alison’s mission began in January 2015 when she mounted a heart-felt plea to her church – Hope Community Church, Wymondham – for warm clothing for refugees trying to survive the harsh winter. Within two weeks, two car-loads of clothing for adults and children were boxed and labelled in time to join the charity shipment across Europe to the Iraq border. It was the beginning of God’s on-going, miraculous provision, with offers of help coming from both inside the church and the wider community.
“Every time there has been a problem God has always provided the solution. I have learnt not to worry about the details because if God’s in it, you only have to push a door slightly and it will open,” says Alison.
She extends a rallying call for donations from her Wymondham community and beyond – response is growing through word of mouth and support from Browick Road Primary School and Wymondham Girl Guides.
Now she is looking for a larger dry storage area to enable her to continue with the work and is hopeful for a team of volunteers to help pack prior to each shipment.
The quality clothing is earmarked for minority groups of refugees mainly in Syria and Iraq, people who haven’t made it to the big UN and Red Cross camps, where the main aid is, and who are living in tents and partially-built buildings without windows, she explains.
Alison recalls the TV footage that highlighted those who fled to the mountains for safety in just the lightweight clothes they were wearing; she was heartbroken. As a mum, she was also moved by the suffering of tiny vulnerable babies when she saw a mother holding her newborn. “Instead of smiling with joy she looked so hopeless,” says Alison, who promotes fund-raising initiatives to provide basic hygiene packs for expectant mothers and their babies.
Her faith in action is prompted by the Bible passage, James 2: 15-16, and the reminder to clothe and feed the poor. Today she is encouraged when she learns about the mobilisation of churches nationwide to collect generous donations for Samara Aid Appeal. There are even furry boots for children to wear in the snow instead of flip flops and some refugees are dressed in mink coats in place of summer t-shirts to stave off the freezing winter temperatures that claimed 6,000 lives, primarily in Iraq, during the winter of 20014/15, explains Alison.
She first learnt about the tragedies from Canon Andrew White who used to live among the Christian community in Iraq as the ‘vicar of Bagdad’, but had to leave after his own life came under threat. “IS (Islamic State) terrorise those in the towns and villages so people have to flee for their lives, pay a tax or convert to Islam,” says Alison.
Those captured face brutal execution and women and young girls are trafficked and sold as slaves, explains Samara’s Aid Appeal which began when Brighton woman, Samara Levy, rallied the mums at her son’s school to donate clothing. Soon UK churches also became involved with prayer and practical aid to help ease the atrocities with three annual shipments in September/October, January and around Easter.
Winter and spring clothing (as well as quality bedding and towels) are taken by container lorry to Jordan, on the Iraq border, and distributed to refugees living in makeshift shelters and tents. Says Alison: “I pray there will be some healing for the recipients when they know that many of the generous donations come through UK churches who love them and care about their plight.”
Contact Alison at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit: www.samarasaidappeal.org
Pictured above is Alison Marlow who has issued a rallying call for refugee aid.