- By Hasan Ibrahimović
Trans-European student initiative, Balkans Relief, to provide urgent aid to refugees
Student humanitarian relief group Balkans Relief, from the UK, have united with those from Germany, Sweden, Norway, Denmark and the USA to coordinate fundraising and emergency relief to refugees travelling through the Balkans as winter closes in. The group is aiming to supply food, winter clothing, hygiene & childcare items in areas where humanitarian organisations and local groups are absent or struggling to cope.
It is appealing to the public to support their efforts by donating via online fundraising page.
As temperatures fall in the often turbulent Balkans, there are grave concerns that the lack of aid will result in people freezing to death before making it to Europe. President of the EU Commission Jean-Claude Juncker recently warned:
“Every day counts. Otherwise we will soon see families in cold rivers in the Balkans perish miserably.”
“We’re not a big NGO and we don’t need a large infrastructure.” says James Bonham, a student at Goldsmiths College London, and a coordinator for Balkans Relief. “Unlike larger organisations we can be very flexible and reach rapidly those areas where the need is greatest. We provide effective relief by purchasing supplies in the countries of distribution and transporting them over much shorter distances This cuts costs and maximises donations.”
Bonham recently returned from the Croatian/Slovenian border where Balkans Relief has been coordinating with groups providing relief materials to people in transit. The Balkan borders with Europe along Croatia, Serbia and Slovenia have been closed off on the European sides recently. Hungary in particular has faced international condemnation for breaking international laws when it build a fortified fence separating Europe from the Balkan sub-continent, re-enforced with cross border raids and clashes. (Read more…)
The war-torn Balkan sub-continent itself still healing after a decade long war that resulted in ethnic cleansing and genocide.
The initiative is coordinated by unpaid volunteers who cover all the costs of running Balkans Relief out of their own pocket. Natasha Andersen, a Danish student and coordinator says “We use 100% of the money to acquire and distribute these urgent essentials to forcibly displaced people. Unlike large charities who typically spend between 5-12% on administration all the costs of running Balkans Relief are born by our team personally. When people donate money to a cause they want to see how that money is being used, that’s why we will publish our full accounts online.”
James Bonham; +44 (0) 7900 682222
Natasha Andersen; +44 (0) 7490 212433
Images from Bonham’s most recent humanitarian expedition: