An Armagh woman has set up a support group online to allow locals to donate clothing and other vital essentials for humanitarian aid to Turkey and Syria, following earthquakes which have so far claimed over 20,000 lives.
Blaithin O Neill, who is a teacher by trade, says that when news of the earthquakes broke, she initially looked online to see if there were any local avenues for donating much needed supplies to those in need.
When she didn’t find any local collection points, Blaithin decided to set up ‘Armagh Humanitarian Aid for Syria and Turkey‘ on social media to coordinate donations in the Armagh area.
The project kicked off on Thursday night, with donations being collected at the Village Community Centre. The same venue will be open for collections tonight (Friday) from 7:30pm to 9pm.
On Saturday, there will be a gathering and collection at the Aonach Mhacha Irish Centre where volunteers will be sorting through the donations from 11am to 3pm.
Aonach Mhacha will be acting as the main donation point, with buckets also being available for cash donation.
Blaithin, who was involved in work for Ukraine and Syrian refugees whilst at university in England, told Armagh I that since starting the group this week, she has been able to secure use of the Irish Centre, alongside support from a number of local businesses.
She hopes that she can get more and more individuals and groups on board in the coming weeks.
She said: “What we are trying to do is just to see what we can do to help. The idea is to bring together both sides of the community to see how much we can do this weekend. If it’s realistic, it’s something we can carry on for another two weeks.
“The plan is that people will start talking about it and start understanding what’s going on. We want to bring light to it and show people that it’s not just numbers, this is actually happening, and it’s not unrealistic for us to get a truck over there.”
Blaithin says that so far, the community have been generous and that the collection was well supported on Thursday. She wants to keep going and help ensure that the practical need in the region is met.
She explained that clothing is the main need, as cold is the “big killer” in the aftermath of the earthquakes, as families have been left without their homes, with many having loved ones trapped in the rubble.
Blankets, coats, hats, scarves, tents and sleeping bags are just some of the supplies needed in the area at this time.
Blaithin adds that she hopes the community will rally around the appeal, and that all assistance will be appreciated.
“I’ve seen it done in England and Wales and it’s fantastic, but you want it to be done in your own home town”, she said.
“We know there’s a cost of living crisis, but if you can’t give money or clothes, you can give your time. People can give an hour here and there to help sort through the stuff or come down to show their support. You can even just keep sharing stuff on Facebook.
“We’re just trying to get as much stuff as we can in such short notice.”
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