The Syrian refugee crisis may be on the other side of the world, but that’s not stopping a Saanich-based charity from sending a whole lot of help.
On Thursday, the Compassionate Resource Warehouse packed a shipping container full of clothes, linens, kitchenware, tools and more, then sent it to a Syrian refugee camp in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley, where between 40,000 and 50,000 people have been displaced. The group is currently gathering items for a second shipping container to be sent to a camp in Jordan later this month or in early April, where about 30,000 Syrian refugees are seeking relief.
“This one to Lebanon is more relief-focused,” said Dell Marie Wergeland, president of the CRW. “Most of these people fled over the mountain to get there, so they only have what they could carry.
“Everything that’s being sent is by request. They have sent us a needs list and we have been in dialogue and agreed on what we can provide.”
Founded in 1999, the CRW has sent more than 400 shipping containers to date to provide relief from such international crises as the 2010 Haiti earthquake and the 2013 Typhoon Haiyan in Southeast Asia. The charity provides “second wave” relief, after frontline groups such as the United Nations and the Red Cross do the initial response.
“Our specialty is coming in after and making sure the education system has supplies, the medical teams have supplies, that kind of thing,” said Wergeland.
The Lebanon container was put together in less than a week, she said, thanks to a team of 125 volunteers and the warehouse’s large accumulation of community donations.
“These people have a huge heart of compassion and they want to make a difference,” said Wergeland of the volunteers. “Everybody will go home and be pleased at what they could do – they’ll feel bad that they couldn’t put more in, but yet they won’t be able to put any more in because it will be filled to the brim.”
The CRW collects donations year-round, but Wergeland said they also reach out to such partners as Canada Comforts and Red Cross during times of crisis for specific supplies that are needed.
“Most of those (partners) give to us on a regular basis, so we have a stockpile,” she said. “This one will deplete us, and so for certain items, we will reach out to the general public.
“People in our area love to do something. They want to do something. But they don’t know how and they don’t know what.”
The Jordan container is in need of brand new hygiene and kitchen products, including toothbrushes, soap, water bottles, plastic cups and cutlery. The CRW would also like to send new T-shirts and shoes to the Middle Eastern country.
“Basically, they would like 5,000 of everything because the need is so great,” said Wergeland. “Right now, we’re sort of aiming for 1,000 of everything.”
The CRW website (crwarehouse.ca) has an ongoing list of needed items for their shipping containers. Those interested in donating can call 250-381-4483 or visit the website for more information, as well as drop-off instructions. The CRW will be closed on March 25 for Good Friday.
“I just think that we’ve been given a wonderful opportunity to make a difference in areas that have been pretty bleak,” said Wergeland of the work that the CRW does. “People have come from pretty horrendous situations. People don’t leave their homes and their country lightly.
“We don’t fix the whole camp but we bring hope.”