My name is Trish Oliver, but many Manx people remember me as Pat Stephenson, who attended Onchan School, Ballakermeen and then St Ninian’s. I was lucky to be brought up in the Isle of Man in the 1960’s and 70’s. My Dad was an optician on the island, both in Port Erin and on Walpole Avenue in Douglas, and my Mum was a committed member of St Peter’s Church in Onchan, and active in the Mother’s Union. They loved the beauty of the island, loved their friends, and loved living in a community where you could leave your front door unlocked, and where there was always a neighbour to chat to. Our family home backed onto Molly Quirk’s glen and I spent long summer days playing there with my brothers and friends, and cold winter days snug and warm at school and at home. It was a life of safety and security, in a beautiful environment.
How different life is for the displaced children from Syria. The camps are, at this time of year, cold and usually muddy, in the summer, hot and dusty, and life there is one of hardship. The children have been through trauma and yearn to go back to Syria as they once knew it. We have all been distressed by awful pictures on our TV screens, and no doubt felt confused and sad, angry and powerless. We see people suffering unimaginably. In response, we can do nothing or we can do something.
Baraa Kouja, a Syrian student living in Exeter, decided to do something.
He had worked to support displaced Syrian people before, and had direct links with people in displacement camps. In Al Abraa camp in the Lebanon, the children had drawn pictures depicting their lives. Baraa decided to exhibit these pictures in Exeter in October 2015, to educate the public about the Syrian plight. Money was raised by people choosing to buy a picture to keep, and this money went directly back to the camp to relieve suffering. The response was heartwarming; people generously gave money for humanitarian relief, and Baraa was asked to put the exhibition on in other cities.
From Syria with Love is now a registered charity, funding projects for relief, education, emergencies and empowerment. Every penny raised from donations goes to Syrian people suffering from the war, with the From Syria with Love team of volunteers giving their time and resources for free. We are delighted to have the opportunity to bring the “From Syria with Love” exhibition over to the Isle of Man, and grateful for the support of everyone who has made this possible. The exhibition will be at Noa Bakehouse from 25th March - 8th April and Baraa will give presentations over the weekend of 1st & 2nd. April before going into schools to talk on Monday and Tuesday.