October 2021 marked the fifth year of MRA as a registered charity. As with all anniversaries, we feel a mix of emotions as we look back on that time and ahead to future challenges and possibilities. We have enjoyed tremendous support from the Marlow community—from local businesses like Coopers and Candle Calm, to the pupils and teachers at the local primary schools, we are very grateful for the acts of generosity, ingenuity and kindness that have been shown. Our supporters have barn danced, run, cycled and walked literally thousands of miles to raise thousands of pounds. We have collected clothes, boots, tents and mobile phones to distribute to refugees. We have shared some delicious Syrian food, thanks to chef Imad Alarnab, and we have sold hundreds of plants and raffled quite a number of soft toys! You have welcomed us into your churches, schools, WI and Rotary meetings, and on to Marlow FM to talk about the global refugee crisis and how we can work together to help.
It has been inspirational to see people from Marlow giving their time and sharing their skills on the frontline to support refugees and other displaced persons—through legal advice, medical care, distribution of aid, and helping in very practical ways in camps in Calais and Samos.
The projects we fund are those where the money can help a small number of people a lot and where there is a local connection to Marlow. Thanks to your immense generosity, MRA has been able to fund a wide range of projects both abroad and in the UK, providing, amongst other things, education, school uniforms and stationery, legal advice, transport, food and clothes.
While we can reflect on what we have managed to achieve since 2016, the five years ahead of us look particularly challenging. There were an additional 11.2 displacements during 2020, bringing the total number of displaced persons to 82.4 million, of which 26.4 million were refugees. Conflicts in northern Mozambique, Ethiopia and the Sahel region of Africa caused significant numbers of displacements. The situation in Afghanistan became the focus of the world’s attention for a short period but, even before the Taliban had taken over, the country was already described as having “all the hallmarks of a humanitarian catastrophe” due to conflict, Covid-19 and food shortages. The impact of climate change and pressure on natural resources will add to difficulties faced by populations who cannot survive inhospitable environments. The developing world continues to host the largest number of refugees, while developed countries, including the UK, make it increasingly difficult for refugees to penetrate their borders and to exercise their rights under the UN Convention.
At MRA, we will continue to work according to our strategic goals, focusing on changing hearts and minds in our community, building strong partnerships and raising funds. During 2022, we will be making a concerted effort to attract more volunteers to help us achieve those goals—whether that be by increasing our links with schools, assisting with events, helping with social media. We have a great variety of events planned for 2022, including dinners cooked by chef Imad, a wellness festival in Frieth in August, and our annual On The Move running challenge during Refugee Week in June. And, in May, one of our supporters will be taking part in London’s annual cycling festival RideLondon to raise funds for us.