Saturday January 18, 2014

Supporting local needs – Australian bushfires

For most of Islamic Relief’s fundraising offices around the world, the phrase “charity begins at home” doesn’t apply. Aiming to provide help wherever the humanitarian need is greatest, appeals will call for support to Syria, Palestine, Afghanistan, Pakistan… But sometimes, the need just happens to be a little more local.

Bushfires are currently ravaging Australia, claiming land and homes in states including New South Wales, Victoria and Perth. While we are trying to keep Syrian refugees from freezing to death in the harsh winter, on the other side of the world, families are fighting to survive soaring temperatures.

That’s where Islamic Relief Australia’s Community Aid Fund comes in. With over 250 people left homeless by the fires in Perth alone, Islamic Relief is working in conjunction with evacuation centres across the country to provide emergency packages.

Each pack includes essentials like a torch and a sleeping bag – they cost just 25AUD each (around £13.35), but to a family who has lost everything, these basic items are priceless.

As well as local disaster relief, the Community Aid Fund also supports programmes in Australia including family counselling, tackling domestic violence, interest-free loans to low-income families and youth welfare.

It’s not just in Australia that Islamic Relief is reaching out locally. In the US, a team of trained volunteers form the Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART), a rapid-response network prepared to deliver food, shelter and other vital supplies in emergencies like Superstorm Sandy. Present in 13 American states, this Islamic Relief USA initiative has also provided emotional support to communities affected by the Sandy Hook school shooting in December 2012.

Last Ramadan in the UK, Islamic Relief collected non-perishable food items at our Birmingham branch, supporting a local food bank which helps tackle symptoms of spreading poverty in Britain. We also delivered toys and presents at Eid to children in Royal Gwent Hospital, Newport, and Balsall Heath Children’s Action Team, who work with children with special needs.

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