Angelina Jolie gives a voice to the voiceless refugees in Syria


World Refugee Day 2013: By the end of the year half of Syria’s population will be displaced

A Syrian refugee plays with her child in front of her family's tent in the Zaatari Syrian Refugee camp, in Mafraq, Jordan © Mohammad Hannon/AP

A Syrian refugee plays with her child in front of her family’s tent in the Zaatari Syrian Refugee camp, in Mafraq, Jordan © Mohammad Hannon/AP

Tomorrow (20th June 2013) is World Refugee Day, and with latest events in Syria it is now more important than ever to be aware of the plight of refugees.

There are currently 1,600,000 Syrian refugees living in camps in Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon and Turkey. Yesterday UNHCR Special Envoy Angelina Jolie was in Jordan where 540,000 refugees reside. She visited one of the camps to mark World Refugee Day and also “to show support for Syria’s refugees, to call on the world to address their plight, and to better understand needs in Jordan and other countries in the region most directly affected by this devastating conflict.”

51c163ce6“The worst humanitarian crisis of the 21st century is unfolding in the Middle East today,” Angelina added. “By the end of this year half of Syria’s population – ten million people – are expected to be displaced and in desperate need.”

The UN recently launched the largest emergency appeal in their history for £3.2 billion. In the Zaatari camp in Jordan there are 30,000 children of school age living there but only two schools in operation which are full to capacity, teaching 10,000 children. They are building another school that will be able to house 5,000 children but due to a lack of funding there is no money for the teachers’ salaries or to run it full stop.

Children in the camp are suffering from diarrhoea, respiratory infections, high fever, ear infections and skin diseases, due to poor sanitation and hygiene. In winter the camps are constantly flooded due to rain and snow and in the summer the temperatures regularly top 100°F making living conditions in the dusty camp unbearable.

The £3.2bn currently sought by the UN is to cover refugees’ most basic needs and only until the end of this year – the situation is critical.

One U.N. agency, the World Food Programme (WFP), has delivered 500 million meals in Syria so far this year. “We have reached a stage in Syria where some of the people, if they don’t get food from the World Food Programme, they simply do not eat,” the WFP’s Syria Regional Emergency Coordinator Muhannad Hadi said.

Syrian refugee children walk after heavy rain at Al-Zaatari refugee camp in the Jordanian city of Mafraq ©  Reuters/Muhammad Hamed

Syrian refugee children walk after heavy rain at Al-Zaatari refugee camp in the Jordanian city of Mafraq ©
Reuters/Muhammad Hamed

The European Union last week promised 400 million euros, Russia and China have so far contributed $10 million and $1 million to the UNHCR. Although it is fantastic that countries all over the world are donating to the cause, the numbers from world governments still falls way short of what they need to survive. It is hoped with the Syria appeal that donations from the likes of you and me will help them reach their target so they can provide for the basic needs of the thousands of refugees streaming out of Syria everyday.

You can help by donating to the WFP here. Alternatively you can help by donating to the UNHCR’s appeal here – UK UNHCR – or the Worldwide UNHCR –

£15 could provide two families with synthetic mats to prevent them from sleeping on the ground.

£30 can provide high thermal fleece blankets to keep a family warm during the bitter winter months.

£80 can provide kitchen equipment for eight families to cook warm food throughout the winter.

£300 can provide a tent to shelter a family from the harsh weather.

Angelina Jolie talks to to Syrian refugees in a camp on the Jordan-Syria border ©AFP/Getty Images

Angelina Jolie talks to Syrian refugees in a camp on the Jordan-Syria border ©AFP/Getty

To understand, on a tiny scale, what it must be like to be a refugee, I’d like to share a story from my post on World Refugee Day last year. Apologies about this but it is a story that has stayed with me ever since I saw it on the television series Equator several years ago.  The presenter Simon Reeve visited a refugee camp on the Somalian/Kenyan border and met a young girl, Fatima, who fled the dangers of her home country Somalia for the camp in Kenya. What really struck me was that she’d never travelled more than 4km from the camp. The Kenyan authorities wouldn’t let her go any further into Kenya and she couldn’t go back to Somalia so therefore had been trapped with thousands of other refugees in the camp for the last 17 years. In the programme, Simon Reeve talked about having a British passport and how he could go anywhere he wanted in the world yet the refugees are confined to what is almost a prison.

After visiting the camp, he said: “Thanks to an accident of birth, I was lucky enough to be able to leave to continue my journey around the world”.

The number of displaced persons around the world currently numbers 45,000,000 due to the ongoing conflicts in Syria, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Mali. In 2012 alone, 7,600,000 people became refugees, with the total number at its highest since 1994.

Thank you for reading,

Please, please donate if you can by following this link for the UK site – or this link for the worldwide UNHCR page –

Visit the UNHCR here –

Donate to the World Food Programme here.

You can follow the UNHCR on Twitter here –

And on Facebook here –

The WFP are on Twitter here –

And on Facebook here.

It’s Small Charity Week


This week, from 17th to the 22nd June, it’s Small Charity Week.

Small Charity Week is a campaign which was first set up in 2010 by the Foundation for Social Improvement (FSI) to celebrate and raise the profile of the small charity sector.

The objectives of Small Charity Week are to:

  • Celebrate the contribution that small charities make to communities throughout the UK and across the world
  • Improve the knowledge, representation and sustainability of small charities
  • Highlight the work of the small charity sector to the broadest possible audience
  • Encourage public giving
  • Work with the small charity sector to develop political engagement at a national and local level

These objectives are put into practice over the course of the week through a series of activities and initiatives in order to bring attention to all the small charities that are trying to make a difference in the world. For example, on day 4 (the 20th June) of Small Charities Week, the charities have the objective of showcasing their volunteering opportunities.


This week I’d like to put the spotlight on Act4Africa which is a small charity based in Altrincham, Cheshire.

It was set up in 2000 by husband and wife team Martin and Kathy Smedley with the aim of combating HIV and also promoting gender justice for women and girls by equipping them with life skills to be free from poverty.


They run a medical elective programme where they organise placements at hospitals based in Uganda for medical students or health professionals on a career break/who have retired. They also organise trips for teachers wishing to do their placements in Uganda.

In partnership with Girl Effect and the Uganda Girl Guides association, they provide life-training skills and health education to allow 65,00 girls to escape poverty, It is thought that in Uganda 85% of girls leave school early. Act4Africa’s three-year programme aims to combat this through training and education, enabling girls to aspire to higher paid jobs and leadership positions.

This small charity has made a huge impact since it started 13 years ago. They have rolled their training programme out to 1.25 million Africans with 75,000 children a year receiving teaching and learning on gender equality and HIV risks. Not only this, they have set up a mobile village for HIV testing and counselling which over 10,000 people a year have access to.

‘Making the world dramatically different’ is their tagline… I’d say they’re doing exactly that.

If you would like to find out more information on Small Charity Week and Act4Africa, please follow the below links:

Visit Small Charity Week here –

Visit Act4Africa here –

Follow Act4Africa on Facebook –

Follow Act4Africa on Twitter –

Follow Small Charity Week on Twitter here –



African Child Day


Today is Day of the African Child, and UNICEF are celebrating with some great news!

Over the past two weeks, hundreds of communities in Mali, The Gambia, Senegal and Guinea have publicly declared that they have abandoned female genital mutilation/cutting and child marriage. Learn more about the fantastic work that UNICEF’s partner Tostan does to encourage these declarations here:

And follow all the celebrations on Facebook and Twitter with #AfricanChildDay.


The eight year old girl who makes bracelets to raise money for children living in a women’s refuge



This evening a note popped up on my mobile to advise me that ‘Treasure Boxes’ was following me on Twitter, so I logged straight into my account to see what they were all about. I was amazed at what I read and thought I’d share this inspirational story with you.

Two years ago, at the age of six, a little girl known as the ‘Treasure Fairy’, decided she wanted to do something to help others. Her idea was to put together shoeboxes of toys to give to children who didn’t have any. Her family contacted the local women’s refuge and were told that around 50 children stay at the refuge each year, many of them arriving with nothing but the clothes on their backs.

The Treasure Fairy at work ©treasureboxes

The Treasure Fairy at work ©treasureboxes

The Treasure Fairy started to make crystal and stone bracelets to sell in order to raise enough money to provide a shoebox of toys for each child who arrives at the refuge. The boxes cost £15 to make so she therefore needs to raise £750 a year to be able to make up 50 boxes for this refuge alone. The Treasure Fairy is hoping by raising enough money she will be able to spread the treasure boxes to refuge’s nationally.

How you can help

The Treasure Fairy uses high quality beads consisting of semi-precious stones and Swarovski crystals to make up each bracelet which takes her around 15 minutes to complete. The only help she gets in this process is with the tying and gluing of the knot at the end.

Anyone can purchase the bracelets from the website here by clicking on the ‘Donate’ button on the right hand side of the page. The minimum donation for each bracelet is £3.50 with only 50p going towards the materials – the rest goes straight towards the toys. Postage and packaging is free if you live in the UK.

The Treasure Fairy is also in desperate need of suitable small items to put into the treasure boxes. Donated toys need to be small enough to fit in a shoebox along with six other items.



Each shoe box has around seven items in it. These items vary according to the age of the child the box is intended for. Typical items include:

A notebook

All boxes, except for those for very young children include a notebook. This is intended to be used as a diary so that the children can write down their thoughts and feelings.

A stone heart, egg or fossil

These are meant for the child to hold when they are feeling insecure. The little girl that runs this project has her own stone heart that she holds when she is worried or upset and thought that this would be a good idea and that every box should have one.

A teddy (or sand animal)

This is provided for comfort.

Pencil case with pens and pencils

These are provided for all older children in case they need these for school or homework. Younger children will have crayons.

Other possible items include:

  • puzzle books
  • alarm clock/watch
  • construction toys
  • puzzles
  • craft items

Thank you for reading. If you need any more information about Treasure Boxes please see their FAQs page and also the below links. Alternatively you can contact them here –

Further information

See her website here –

Follow her on Twitter –

Like her Facebook page here –

Refuge – Find out more about the work of Refuge here –