A fundraising event which collected almost £2,000 in support of Syrian refugees last weekend shows people are seeing the refugee crisis “is about the humanity and not about the politics”, according to its organisers.
The ‘Generous Proportions’ pop-up restaurant drew 55 people to Thornham Magna Village Hall on Saturday, in aid of Hoxne-based charity Next Stop Symi, which plans to drive a transit van containing vital provisions directly to refugees in Greece this March.
Organised by Maryanne Henderson, of Eye, and Booan Temple, of Wortham, the event sought to shed light on the harsh conditions refugees currently live in on Greek islands like Symi and Lesbos.
Ms Henderson, a retiree, said they had been drawn to the local charity, which was founded in 2015 by Sue and Phil Flagg, because they knew the money they raised would lead to “direct action” to help the refugees, and not get lost in bureaucracy.
She told the Diss Express: “Lots of people really want to support refugees, but don’t know how.
“That’s why we called it ‘Generous Proportions’. If you give them a good time, good fun and nice food, it gives them an opportunity to contribute.
“There was a fantastic response. It far surpassed what I could have expected.”
The fundraiser, which featured live music and an ‘auction of promises’, received support and contributions from various local groups, including Diss Music School and the Thornham Magna Village Hall committee, and businesses such as the Natural Foodstore in Diss and The Bull Auberge in Eye.
The global response to the refugee crisis, and the wider topic of immigration, has remained contentious, particularly in light of the recent widespread controversy over US President Donald Trump’s migration policy.
However, Ms Henderson said she felt hearing the stories from charity workers like Mr and Mrs Flagg — as well as Mrs Flagg’s brother Peter, who lives in Symi and supports refugees there — helped people to truly understand the issue and “get beyond the politics”.
She stated: “The reality is there are people who are suffering.
“The situation in Syria is really complex. It’s not economic migrants. We are talking about people who would really rather be at home.
“The personal stories from the refugees themselves, but also when you find out there is a couple in Hoxne who set up this charity — it helps people to have a sense of what’s going on, and the reality of people’s suffering.
“If all people do is read the national press, they get pulled into the political side of it, and it becomes hard to understand.
“A lot of people in Suffolk and elsewhere are prepared to give very generously. That’s the reason these people came. They wanted a way to give.”
She added that she and Ms Temple were hoping to stage two more similar fundraisers for the cause later this year.
For more details about donating to the Next Stop Symi charity, please go to www.nextstopsymi.org or visit the Natural Foodstore in Diss.