Lancaster trio’s bid to help Syrian refugees

From left to right, Julie Vallance, Carole Roberts and Maria Ward.
From left to right, Julie Vallance, Carole Roberts and Maria Ward.
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Three friends who set up a charity are planning their 11th trip overseas to offer humanitarian aid to refugees fleeing Syria’s civil war.

The four-day trip, which is due to take place towards the end of April, will see the trio travel to the Greek island Chios, providing refugees with essential basic items in a bid to make their lives a little easier.

A refugee in Serbia.

A refugee in Serbia.

Julie Vallance, a founding member of the Ripple Effect Lancaster charity, describes the worsening conditions on the islands of Lesvos and Chios and how distressing it is to see people still receiving minimal help and sadly being exploited by people traffickers. 

She said: “Decent hard-working people are receiving little respect from the authorities, so they are totally reliant on charity.

“I wonder how degraded we would feel to not be able to make our own decisions, choose our own clothes and live in a safe place with our families.

“We need to work together to improve the situation refugees are in.

Refugees in Serbia.

Refugees in Serbia.

“But most of all we need a better solution than allowing the refugees to be exploited.”

The charity was set up just over two years ago when Carole Roberts was first made aware of the harrowing situation by her son Ian.

While working in Greece he witnessed the shocking scenes of Syrian families arriving on overcrowded boats with no warm clothing or food and soaking wet and cold after a nine-hour journey from Turkey.

Carole explains how moved she was after hearing about the desperation of these refugees and knew she just had to do something to help.

From left to right, Maria Ward, Carole Roberts and Julie Vallance.

From left to right, Maria Ward, Carole Roberts and Julie Vallance.

She said: “We were completely devastated by the way they were being treated.

“We can’t do everything to improve our world, but this is something we knew we could achieve.”

Carole, Julie and Maria Ward, along with help from the people of Lancaster and Liverpool, have been travelling to the Greek islands and Serbia, where many refugees are unable to leave due to the closure of borders to them. 

The three women first started collecting clothing in December 2015, along with the help of family and friends who rallied around both in Lancaster and Liverpool and collected aid, which was then sent on to Greece.

A refugee in Serbia.

A refugee in Serbia.

The trio are incredibly grateful for the overwhelming amount of support the charity has received from local people and businesses over the last few years.

The support and assistance they have given has helped the Ripple Effect to become such a success – from donations of clothing, sleeping bags and toiletries to time given to help sort and box up the items, and the generous donations of funds that help transport the goods over there.

Carole said: “They have been amazing. Every single penny donated is used to get aid to these people. It doesn’t always have to be large sums, we are grateful for everything as every penny counts and adds up.” 

A further trip is also in the pipeline for July.