Elouise Hobbs, Regional Media Officer, talks to Alban MacDonald about how he and others raised awareness and money for the Syrian Crisis Appeal.
After spending a night out in the cold and rain to raise money for CAFOD’s Syrian Refugee Appeal, I caught up with Alban and he told me how the plight of the Syrian Refugees has captured his heart and drawn him to extreme lengths to raise awareness and funds.
“The other day, a friend asked me ‘Alban, why on earth did you choose to sleep out in Sandy when you were adamant that you wouldn’t?’ That’s right, I did say that. But the answer is an interesting story.
“As a local volunteer for CAFOD I was called to provide details about their Syrian and Refugee Crisis Appeals. This led me to meet with Ross Rhodes, 16, a student at Sandy Upper School and Ken Lynch, 79, a seasoned campaigner for good causes.
“Their plan was to raise awareness and support for refugees fleeing from war torn Syria – especially the most vulnerable women and children, by spending the night sleeping outside in Sandy.
“Ken’s wife died recently after a long term illness and he was keen to help those nursing institutions that gave his wife so much support in her later life. Yet, it was the plight of hundreds of thousands of Syrian people, especially the mothers and their small children, being trafficked across treacherous seas escaping from the desperate situation is Syria that touched his heart and inspired him to act in Sandy & Biggleswade.
“Ross was touched by the refugee’s stories. He felt an urgency to act and wanted to do something positive. Then, the weekend before the Sleep Out, Ross fell desperately ill and was rushed to hospital, meaning he just couldn’t take part. So, Ken decided to do it himself and I felt compelled to support Ken. Initially, it was for my own peace of mind because I wanted him to be safe but when I thought about it more, I realised it was such a great thing to do. The Sleep Out is not for the faint hearted and brought home to us for just 12 hours what these people might be facing.
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“Yet, we were in control of our situation and could have easily sought help should things have gone wrong. This is not so for the thousands of Syrian families – they so need our help.
“Unfortunately, the issue is not being solved and neither is it going away. Both Ken and I are convinced we need to try continue to bring this issue to people’s notice and we are asking people to support the causes online.” So far the Sleep Out in Sandy has raised over £400.
After the Big Sleep Out, Alban was invited to meet Helen Nellis, the Lord Lieutenant of Bedfordshire (The Queen’s representative) at the official opening of “charities helping the vulnerable”. He got to discuss with her the role of CAFOD in the Syrian refugee crisis saying:
“The violence has often forced families to split up and the trauma of the violence on the children is evident from the frightening pictures they draw of their experiences. With so many negative views being expressed in the papers many people fear refugees but in reality all they want is to find a place of peace and safety. I find it impossible to believe that this reality does not touch the hearts of all caring humans on this planet.”
Alban reported that Helen was very interested with CAFOD’s work with Syrian Refugees.
Donate at cafod.org.uk/refugees