They called out for help and we answered their prayers. In 2011, kind-hearted residents, companies and schools across the Capital dug deep to raise a staggering £400,000 for one city charity which used it to help the world’s most desperate countries – from those in poverty to others devastated by natural disasters.
Mercy Corps, based in Sciennes, said the “tremendous” level of support shown for the rest of the world helped save lives in countries such as Somalia, Pakistan, Haiti and Sudan.
From providing food for starving children in Ethiopia and clean water for flood-hit families in Pakistan, to offering support centres for abused women in the Central African Republic and emergency supplies for families hit by the tsunami in Japan, the money raised – and then donated to Mercy Corps – made a huge difference to the lives of thousands.
Here, we look at the life-saving work Mercy Corps has been able to carry out because of donations from Edinburgh people, rebuilding shattered lives across the globe.
The 9.0-magnitude earthquake that devastated the country in March was the largest in its history and triggered a 23ft tsunami.
Emergency supplies including blankets and washing facilities were provided for thousands affected by the disaster, with Edinburgh business Wolfson Microelectronics raising more than £6000 to help.
Product marketing manager Derek Milne said: “Wolfson as a global company, with two offices and a design centre in Japan, was distraught at the devastation caused by the earthquake and tsunami that struck the north-east coast of Japan.
“Fortunately, none of the company’s employees or families were impacted, but the disaster wreaked havoc for many other Japanese people. The Wolfson Charity and Community Council immediately announced that the company would make a $10,000 (£6400) donation to Mercy Corps for the Japan earthquake appeal. Wolfson was happy to support Mercy Corps and its local partner in Japan, Peace Winds, in its efforts to respond to the disaster.”
Horn of Africa
The worst drought in 60 years brought food crisis and famine to parts of Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia this year, followed by floods, disease and now conflict.
The drought caused the death of livestock that many people relied on for income and survival. Without the animals, millions have been forced to move to emergency camps in Mogadishu, Ethiopia and Kenya.
People across the Capital raised funds to provide water, food, mobile health clinics and malnutrition treatment for thousands in Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya.
Artemis Investment Management, on Melville Street, donated £10,000 towards the cause in August.
Erin Gray, an Edinburgh-based member of the Mercy Corps team, visited the drought-hit region for three weeks in August.
The 29-year-old, from Southhouse, said: “The drought was so bad that people lost everything, and many were at serious risk of starvation and dying of thirst. It was great to see donations from back home literally saving lives.
“Though the fresh water, food and assistance our teams provided, thanks to the support of people back home, it really made a huge difference.”
Central African Republic
Central African Republic is one of the world’s poorest countries, plagued by conflict and poverty, with life expectancy, child mortality and HIV rates among the worst globally.
Floods and disease outbreaks are common, and humanitarian needs are massive. Women face huge prejudice, inequality and abuse. Life expectancy for women is less than 45, and many are not allowed to earn money, own property or keep their children if they are widowed or left by their husbands.
City residents have been fundraising to provide legal and emotional support for women in the country, and to help establish new businesses.
Mercy Corps director of Fundraising John Cunningham, 60, from Portobello, said: “The women of the Central African Republic face abuse, prejudice and hardship every day. I saw for myself earlier this year just how hard life is there. There’s no electricity supply and barely any roads or education opportunities at all.
“Our teams are working with local women to help them fight for their rights, teaching them about how to set up their own businesses, challenge men who abuse them and get the emotional support they need. I’m proud to be a part of the support Edinburgh gives to projects like this one that really helps people in dire need.”
More than 20 million people were affected by floods in 2010 and 2011, with at least 1.6 million homes damaged or destroyed.
Pupils at James Gillespie’s High School raised £1000 towards the effort, mainly through collections at school concerts and parents’ evenings, to help buy emergency supplies and clean water.
Senior programme officer for Pakistan with Mercy Corps, Mark Chadwick, 36, from Balerno, said: “It was great to see schoolchildren from Edinburgh get so involved in fundraising for the floods that hit Pakistan in 2010, and again this year.
“The floods left millions homeless and without access to clean water, at risk of water-borne disease and other serious health problems.
“The funds raised in Edinburgh were used to provide clean water to thousands of people, both in the immediate aftermath of the floods and for years to come.”
The conflict in Libya this year displaced thousands of people who abandoned their homes to avoid the violence. As the country moves past the conflict, support is needed to help children and others exposed to the violence, and to help community groups and civil society get involved in running their country and making the new democracy effective.
Charity workers from Mercy Corps are using a psychological support programme – Comfort for Kids – to reach out to children.
The programme combines a psychosocial training workshop for adults with an interactive workbook that helps children tell their story of how they have been affected by the conflict.
Programme officer with Mercy Corps for Libya, Ashley Proud, 33, from Marchmont, said: “So many children lost parents, family members and friends in the conflict in Libya this year, and many more witnessed acts of violence and felt terribly unsafe.
“To help, we’ve set up child-friendly centres where children can come and feel safe, play and try to get back to a sense of normality. We’re also using specially-designed games and arts projects to help them deal with what they’ve experienced. It’s a kind of emotional first-aid really.
“We’re also working with community groups and young people to help them take part in how their country is governed now, so they can help make it a real democracy.”
Two million people were affected by the catastrophic 7.0-magnitude earthquake in January 2010. It wrecked the capital, Port-au-Prince, wiped out dozens of hospitals and schools and destroyed the presidential palace, the main prison, law courts, the UN mission’s headquarters and several ministries.
In 2011, more than 1.3 million people remain displaced, spread across 1300 settlement sites.
Funds raised across Edinburgh continue to benefit those affected, with loans to help small business owners who lost everything get back up and running, as well as sports and arts projects for young people affected by the earthquake.
An exhibition of photographs organised by the Edinburgh Disasters Response Committee, which was set up by Mercy Corps and the city council, took place at Edinburgh’s Central Library in January this year to mark the one-year anniversary of the disaster.
Senior programme officer for Haiti, Carrie Beaumont, 30, from Wardie, said: “I was in Haiti immediately after the earthquake and saw just how bad the damage was. The people of Edinburgh responded fantastically, raising huge amounts of money.
“There was so much for our teams to do, from helping people get the food, water and shelter they needed immediately after the quake, to helping them restart their lives with loans to get their businesses back up and running.
“We’re also working with young people in Haiti with sports and arts projects to help them move on with their lives. “We work hard to help communities recover after emergencies like this earthquake, and the support of the people of Edinburgh allows us to continue.”
• For more info, visit www.mercycorps.org or call 0131-662 5160