Fabian Hamilton MP for Leeds North East met with CAFOD supporters on Tuesday to talk about the impact of aid agencies in Syria. It has been over a year since the formal launch of the CAFOD Syria Crisis Appeal and people from across the Diocese of Leeds have responded generously to help their brothers and sisters affected by the crisis. CAFOD supporters from across the diocese have raised more than £66,000 in support of the appeal.
Mr Hamilton, a member of the international development committee, recently returned from Lebanon and Syria. He offered to share his experiences after Chris Feetenby, a parishioner at St John Mary Vianney, Moortown, commended his efforts in ensuring the government’s 0.7% commitment to overseas aid. The talk was kindly hosted at the parish of St John Mary Vianney, who have raised over £1,000 so far in support of the Syria Crisis Appeal.
Fabian spoke of the importance of the UK’s commitment to overseas aid. He told the audience that educating people to understand that international development aid is a priority was key to tackling opposition to it.
He said: “We can all be proud that our money is being spent wisely. Food parcels became very inadequate as Syrians love cooking. The decision to give Syrians a card to buy food means that some kind of normal routine is re-established.”
Two young students, Shona and Caitlin, from the CAFOD group at Cardinal Heenan Catholic High School, took the opportunity to challenge Fabian on important issues.
Shona asked her MP how DFID can use its leadership position in the international community to encourage other countries to pledge similar levels of humanitarian aid to Syria and the region.
In response, Fabian said: “Our example is one to other countries. We are showing the rest of the world what can be done.”
Caitlin was interested in what additional support the UK could offer to those forced to flee their homes. Fabian said that he was not persuaded that if we open our doors thousands it would be right, but he supported the idea of the UNHCR having more resources to identify those who would benefit from psychological, medical or other help overseas.
Anne Street, Head of Humanitarian Policy at CAFOD, recently returned from Syria and also spoke at the event.
Ben Oldham, CAFOD manager for Leeds, said: “This event demonstrated to the elected representative the tremendous support, enthusiasm and dedication of CAFOD’s volunteers in the Leeds diocese. The conflict in Syria has resulted in the biggest humanitarian crisis since the Second World War. People have come here tonight to remind their MP of the responsibility of the government to help those in need.”
As well as providing opportunities for a face-to-face meeting with a Member of Parliament, the event gave Fabian a collective view of CAFOD’s work. It demonstrated to him firsthand the tremendous support, enthusiasm and dedication of CAFOD volunteers and supporters.
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