Two Elmira churches are doing their part to aid Syrian refugees through the upcoming winter as thousands flood into a camp in Jordan, one of the many shelters sought by those fleeing violence and turmoil in Syria’s civil war.
The hope is to bring sweaters donated by locals to the Za’atari refugee camp, located near the Syrian border.
“I think this is something people can identify with and really try on for size, excuse the pun. A sweater is something everybody recognizes: people are going to really connect with it,” said Rev. Hans Borch of St. James Lutheran Church.
Borch and Rev. Richard Frey of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Elmira are leading the local initiative, part of a nationwide effort by Canadian Lutheran World Relief (CLWR) and other churches to collect sweaters.
“There’s a continuing need for necessities. One of the biggest things that we are worried about is, winter is coming and it does get really cold,” said Jennifer Ardon of the CLWR Waterloo chapter.
With some 125,000 people in the camp already, about 4,000 more arrive every day. As a contribution to the work done by the Lutheran World Federation in Jordan, the CLWR is collecting men’s, women’s and children’s sweaters of all sizes.
The hope is to collect a minimum of 10,000 sweaters by the end of October Canada-wide and dispatch them to Jordan by the end of the month in time for the start of winter, which in the desert camp will be cold and prone to floods. In Za’atari, Ardon said, sweaters can save the most lives.
“This way it’s equal to everybody, everybody gets a sweater, hopefully. In the winter there is a lot of rain so temperatures drop and sometimes there’s flooding. When you are sleeping in your makeshift tent, a sweater will do a lot to keep you alive and keep your core body temperature warm.”
By August 2013 the total number of Syrians seeking shelter in bordering Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and Iraq as well as Egypt exceeded two million, according to the United Nations. The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) reported that more than 4,000 children have crossed into neighbouring countries without their parents. Jordan now shelters about 1,170 children refugees, some as young as nine-years-old, the UN News service reported on September 20. About 13 children are born in the camp every day, Ardon added, which signals a growing need for children’s sweaters.
Organizers hope to transport all of the collected sweaters to the CLWR warehouse by October 31. From there, they will be shipped to the camp.
“The people of Elmira have been very generous in terms of providing donations for relief agencies – we are looking forward to a good community response,” Borch said.
“Canadians tend to be pretty generous people, and we all have extra sweaters,” Frey added.
New or gently used sweaters can be delivered to either St. James Lutheran Church located at 60 Arthur St. S. or St. Paul’s Lutheran Church at 27 Mill St. in Elmira between 9 a.m. and noon, Monday to Friday, no later than October 27. For more information contact Borch at firstname.lastname@example.org or Frey at email@example.com.