Many people see the winter holiday season as a time for helping those less fortunate; perhaps it’s something to do with the indulgent meals and the time spent with family.
For people who have been displaced from their homes by war, famine or environmental disasters, winter is a time of cold, dark days and fear for the future. Here at Work for Good, we help connect the people who want to give through their businesses with those who may have nothing at all.
We were delighted to catch up with two of our charities helping refugees survive the harsh winter. Donate4Refugees and Goods for Good answered a few questions to highlight how difficult life as a refugee can be, what they are doing to help — and how you can play a part in saving some lives!
Tell us a little bit about what you do?
We are a grassroots, passionate charity run by dedicated volunteers. We work collaboratively with over 40 like-minded charities and volunteers to get the right aid to those who need it across Europe. No judgement, no hassle, and all human-to-human: with empathy, compassion and friendship. Every penny donated is spent helping refugees the grassroots way. We won’t stop helping until victims of the refugee crisis are being received into Europe and the UK with the dignity they deserve and the empathy we can well afford.
Goods for Good:
We are a growing, UK-registered charity that delivers overstocked goods donated by British industry, and second-hand goods donated by the local community, to refugees and vulnerable communities around the world. We work with over 80 companies, such as NIKE, Next, Hunter Boots, Comfy Quilts, UNIQLO, and Harrods, to save their overstocked goods from going to landfill or being incinerated. We have delivered to over 20 countries around the world, including Moldova, Ukraine, Northern Iraq and South Sudan in the last year.
What does winter mean for the refugees you work with?
In winter, regular heavy downpours can drench everyone and everything in a matter of minutes. In short, cold, dark days everything takes hours, if not longer, to dry again. Many of us know what it feels like to be ‘cold to the bone’, but how many of us have to seek comfort inside a damp sleeping bag in a cold tent? No hot shower. No dry clothes. No warming cup of tea.
Winter weather makes these already vulnerable people very sick. In Greece, refugees are provided basic food by the State, but in other places they aren’t so fortunate. Every person deserves shelter, warmth, proper clothing, nutritious food and access to basic facilities.
Goods for Good:
We are supporting millions of refugees and internally displaced people all year round, in Syria, Greece, Jordan, Lebanon and the Ukraine. The winter is especially difficult for these families, as with temperatures dropping, reaching -20 degrees for some, the few essential items they do have become insufficient.
How does the support you offer change during these cold months?
Goods for Good:
We focus on sourcing bedding, trainers and warm outerwear. Just one double duvet ensures that a family of 4 survives the winter. However, the need for all goods is ongoing; we send a constant stream of essential clothing, shoes, hygiene and sanitary products, and medication.
In the winter our thoughts are never far from hypothermia. Whatever we do for our own families to get them ready for winter, multiply by 10 for someone without a place of their own.
The homeless need a tent and tarpaulin for first-line defence against cold and rain. Then something for warmth: sleeping bags, blankets, firewood, and kettles and electric stoves if there is electricity. Just these simple resources are needed by thousands of people across Europe.
After shelter and warmth, they urgently need jumpers, winter coats, thermal clothes, hats, scarves, gloves, socks and suitable winter shoes or boots.
Finally, there is great need for decent food, because if you don’t eat well, you can’t stay healthy. It’s just not possible. State-provided food, if there is any, is minimal, bland and the same every day; it doesn’t provide a balanced diet. Our distributions tend to contain pasta, rice, tinned tomatoes, flour, sugar, salt, tea bags and coffee. Fresh food, where possible, includes tomatoes, cucumber, ginger, garlic, potatoes and apples or bananas. This allows people to cook for themselves, and with some important tastes from home.
What sort of challenges do you have to overcome in order to get help to those that need it most?
Goods for Good:
We struggle for funding for logistics. For example, we have a truckload of donated duvets ready to leave the donor warehouse, but are struggling for funding. To get these goods to Kurdistan will cost £6,500, however each of these 2,700 duvets will save lives.
How can Work for Good members make a difference to the refugees you work with this winter?
Goods for Good:
It’s great to be part of an organisation with the same ethos of corporate giving. We’re so pleased for the brands that give us items to distribute, but without the help of people like Work for Good members, we wouldn’t be able to get those things to where they are needed.
For example, a donation of £60 will send five boxes of aid containing trainers worth £4,500. This will protect men, women and children’s feet in the bitter cold. Two thirds of the children in refugee camps in Kurdistan don’t have shoes. They walk barefoot amongst the mud and stones.
A Work for Good member donation makes an enormous difference. Every person we help protect or feed is a person more likely to survive the winter. A donation of £5 pays for a blanket, £10 buys a sleeping bag, £15 buys a two-berth tent, £20 provides warm, waterproof winter boots or a warm winter coat. We can make up 10 new thermal ‘Snug Packs’ for £50; that includes thermal long johns, t-shirt, socks, hat and gloves. And for £100 we can bring food parcels to 10 families in need, to last them a fortnight of fresh cooking. Donations of £1,000 can pay rent on a distribution centre for 3 months, and £1,500 can keep the only laundry services for 4,500 refugees on Samos running for one month.
Imagine it was our own sister who had no winter clothes, our nephew who was wearing flip flops in the snow, or our dad who couldn’t wash his clothes. These are such simple parts of daily life that we are all lucky to be able to take for granted, and for a small amount you can share that luck with people less fortunate.
A recent £300 donation from one fantastic Work for Good business member was, within days, helping refugees in Paris survive suddenly plummeting temperatures by paying for blankets, survival blankets and tents. Another brilliant Work for Good company’s £100 donation was able to complete a big fundraiser of £6,000 to buy a critical minibus on the Greek island of Chios to transport 100 refugees from Camp Moria to a clothes distribution centre each day.
Is there anything you would like to say to business owners who are considering joining Work for Good, or those who already have?
I worked in business for twenty years before starting Donate4Refugees and I’ve always believed corporate giving is incredibly important, for employees and customers alike. I was delighted to learn of Work for Good, your ethos and your desire to connect companies with causes. It’s just a great concept and it’s our privilege to be part of it from the start. As a Charity member we’ve received generous donations from companies we wouldn’t have been able to reach on our own.
I want to take this opportunity to thank each and every company that’s registered with Work for Good, and especially (of course) those who have supported us and our important work over the past couple of years. You truly make a difference and we are truly grateful to you. Thank you.
Goods for Good:
We would like to share the story of Alena, to show the huge positive impact that you could have by joining Work for Good. Alena’s story is that of many internally displaced people living in Ukraine. She was blessed with a good income and a large home, and decided to adopt three children. Her children were aged three, seven and ten, and each had various physical and mental illnesses.
Unfortunately, war broke out and turned their lives upside down.
Traumatised by a shooting in the hospital where her son was about to undergo surgery and fighting outside the nursery her daughter attended, they made the difficult decision to leave behind everything they possessed. This left the family without Alena’s regular income, but still requiring all of the medication, food, clothing and toiletries they had previously enjoyed.
Last year, Goods For Good provided Alena and each of her children with a duvet to help them through the cold nights. Alena thanked us for the duvets, saying “We could have only dreamed to buy new winter quilts. I can’t afford it, paying my rent and covering medicines for kids on my minor income. I am a strong person and I survived this horrible war having no tears — so please excuse my tears now. These are tears of happiness and gratitude.”
We have the goods ready, we just need your help to deliver!
It makes for difficult reading at times, but being able to support the hard work of the charities we talked to and their dedicated volunteers is why we do what we do. There’s still time for businesses to sign up before the end of the year and make a difference to families less fortunate than your own.
It’s a sad testament to the enormity of the refugee crisis that we also support many other charities working in this area. If you would like to know more about their work, check out Hope and Aid Direct, Care4Calais and Refugee Europe.
If a refugee charity (or any other) you love isn’t on our platform already, why not give them a nudge to sign up? We’d love to have them. And if you’ve been inspired to support these fantastic charities, please add a donation here — if it’s your first donation via Work for Good, we’ll double it as part of our Christmas Campaign!