A Village in Syria (AVIS) began in November 2013 with the expert help and advice of Beach Creative in Herne Bay, and CADVAS in Whitstable. Most of our original support came from local partners: Rotary International in Canterbury and a variety of other local groups. To raise awareness we held Exhibitions of Photographs in Herne Bay, Seasalter and Canterbury (including the cathedral).
AVIS has assisted with basic welfare supplies, tents for schools, water pumps, sanitation and a polytunnel for growing fruits and vegetables. The organisation has contributed a fair share towards the supplies, food and equipment that the refugees use in order to establish a long-lasting community.
We are very sorry not to be able to support the village at present. It has been difficult to get money to them for a while, although we do occasionally get snippets of news. For example, we know there are about 300 people in the village and most of them are women and children.
Some of the old (and very old) died during the winter. Conditions were very cold, they had little food and almost no medicines. Winter takes its toll. However, some of the oldest people in the village are surviving, and are now in their 80’s. They still look after, and house, IDPs (internally displaced people) from local cities.
In January 2017 we are asked not to send any further monies at present. No explicit reasons were given but the outline given in the Message from our Chair of Trustees and the Expert Witness give a good account of conditions. Things may get worse, rather than better as ISIS continues to disintegrate, but continues to set hundreds and thousands of landmines. And this is only one of their problems. We hope things calm down and we can resume supporting the village in whatever way we can.
The Trustees undertook a scoping exercise, looking for similar community-based, high-impact projects. We found Firefly International and began working with them. They are an excellent organisation, based on the same low-cost principals as ourselves, they also networking with other NGOs in the area, particularly with regard to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Both Firefly and ourselves have a strong volunteer base. We have no paid workers they have a few. We both aim to improve local governance and work with local community organisations.
We are not saying “Good Bye” to the village – we are still in touch – but we cannot support them at present. They do receive money from people who are able to support them as individuals (remittances) from other countries. They use informal systems of money transfer that we, as a charity, cannot use. We wish them well.