13 June 2016

UK supporter spends a week 'living like a refugee' to raise funds for Syrian refugee children

A UK supporter of persecution charity Open Doors has spent a week 'living like a refugee' to raise funds to run a children's camp for Syrian refugees in Lebanon, before travelling to Lebanon to help to lead the children's camps.

Hazel* set herself the challenge of spending seven nights in a tent in her garden, wearing the same clothes every day, only taking one cold shower during the week, only spending £10 on food for the week, and cycled to work each day, which was a 30-mile round trip. "I don't think I'd been that hungry for a very long time. My hair took on entirely new matted qualities," she says.

The challenge enabled her to raise almost £1,000 which went entirely towards the running of a camp for Syrian child refugees in Lebanon.

The experience also gave Hazel a small insight into the difficulties facing refugees. "What was different for me was that obviously I knew the next week I would be eating well. It did strike me that if you don't know when it's going to end it's very hard to keep hopeful. If you know that there's an end point you can summon the energy and get through it. To have no idea what your end point is I think would be really difficult."

Hazel then travelled to Lebanon with persecution charity Open Doors to spend a few days helping to run children's camps for Syrian refugees in partnership with local churches. "We did all the typical things that you'd do in a kid's camp in England: face painting, singing songs, playing games, parachutes that you play games with, dramas. It was absolute chaos, but good chaos!"

While Hazel felt pleased to be part of giving the children a time of fun, she was painfully aware of the conditions the children were living in. "A lot of the children didn't want to eat their lunch because they wanted to take it home for their families. At the face painting table, a lot of them wanted extra wet wipes so they could clean themselves because they were really pretty dirty."

"The church there do things like the camp fairly regularly, and they do also have a centre where a number of those children come for lessons, so they're getting an education, and have activities throughout the week. It was good to know that we were going as part of a long-term project; we were giving them a short-term boost, but still facilitating something that really is long term which was really good."

Open Doors is involved in helping a local organisation in Lebanon to provide food packages and other basic supplies to Syrian refugees, as well as Christian literature and education for children.

*name changed for security reasons

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Note to editors:

For more information contact Open Doors Press Office on 01993 777377.

A longer version of this interview is available on the Open Doors website.

Photos of the children's camp will be available shortly.

Open Doors UK & Ireland is part of Open Doors International, a global NGO network which has supported and strengthened persecuted Christians for 60 years. Last year supporters in the UK and Ireland raised over £11.7 million to provide practical support to persecuted Christians such as food, medicines, trauma care, legal assistance, safe houses and schools, as well as spiritual support through Christian literature, training and resources, in over 60 countries.