It’s officially here! The press release of the annual blanket drive for Syrian refugees was held on November 5th at the Fairfax County Government Center in Virginia.
Our world is experiencing the biggest refugee crisis since WWII with approximately 60 million refugees on the face of the Earth. One of the biggest catalysts of this huge crisis has been the civil war in Syria, which has started in March 2011. More than four million Syrians had to flee their homes since then to save their lives according to a recent report of UNHCR. A number of neighboring countries, as well as some European and American states, gave shelter to the escaping masses. Syria’s northern neighbor Turkey is on top of this list of host countries with more than 2.2 million Syrian refugees (official numbers). Both governmental and non-governmental organizations have been relentlessly working to assist those people in need since the beginning of the war, yet it is hard to reach everyone with such huge figures. And when they are faced with harsh winter conditions, it is even harder for Syrian refugees to survive.
For that reason Embrace Relief has been organizing blanket drives in tandem with “Kimse Yok Mu” of Turkey and Northern Virginia Regional Commission consisting of 14 governments in Virginia since 2013 to aid Syrians refugees in Turkey. Over the past two years more than 40,000 blankets have been collected and $115,000 in funds has been donated. They were transported by Paxton Van Lines to the Port of Virginia where they were shipped to Turkey via Maersk. Both companies generously donated their services and are once again donating them in 2015.
This year we are aiming at least ten full containers for our blanket drive, which is to take place between November 7 and December 5. Last year, nearly 18,000 blankets were collected and shipped to assist the displaced families. The campaign of 2015 has been expanded to include coats of all sizes (infants through adults). To kick off the drive Embrace Relief CEO Osman Dulgeroglu has come together with local governmental leaders and the press to kick off this year’s campaign at Fairfax County Government Center, VA on November 5th.
The program started with the opening speech of Mark Gibb, Executive Director of Northern Virginia Regional Commission. With his usual tranquil air, he talked about his first encounter with Syrian refugees in Turkey and underlined the importance of blankets for the displaced Syrians, adding this year’s campaign was expanded to include coats as well. He also donated the first coat to the initiative during the press release. Taking out a green, cozy coat from under the podium he said: “This coat here belonged to my son and we’ve been saving it for our grandchild, but this morning my wife told me Syrian refugees would need it more, so I’m going to donate it to our campaign.”
“This coat here belonged to my son and we’ve been saving it for our grandchild, but this morning my wife told me Syrian refugees would need it more, so I’m going to donate it to our campaign” said Mark Gibb, Executive Director of Northern Virginia Regional Commission at the press conference
Speaking at the press release, Embrace Relief CEO Osman Dulgeroglu reiterated the vitality of the initiative and brought about some new good news: He announced Embrace Relief’s newest project, an all-girls high school to be established in Kilis, Turkey, where approximately 80,000 displaced Syrians are taking refuge. The school will only serve the children of the Syrian community in the city under the supervision of Syrian teachers who have the advantage of speaking the native tongue.
Here is what some of the speakers had to say:
Chairman Sharon Bulova – Fairfax Board of Supervisors
“Last year’s collection drive was incredible with literally thousands of blankets being dropped off at Fairfax County locations. We were honored to work with our community partners and local faith organizations to help those in need of warm blankets. I know our community will be there once again to join this great effort.”
Chairman Scott York – Loudoun Board of Supervisors
“Having witnessed first-hand the plight of the refugee families and the enormity of their needs I can tell you from personal observation this project is most needed, particularly now as this crisis worsens. It does one good to know that a child, a Mom and family have something to keep them warm during the winter months.”
Vaner Kaplan – Executive Director of American-Turkish Friendship Association
“The generosity of the residents and business community in Northern Virginia was overwhelming last year. We are grateful to all who participated and we are hopeful that we will be able to match last year’s total. The need is even greater this year as there are now more than two million refugees living in Turkey.”
To learn more about our blanket & coat drive and to participate click here