Bradford fundraiser Zia Malik has just returned from a hazardous five-day mission to war-torn Syria.
The 30-year-old, who is a fundraising and volunteer manager for Islamic Relief’s northern branch working from the Carlisle Business Centre in Manningham, Bradford, said it was an emotional journey.
It was the first time the aid worker had gone into a war zone to see the work the charity, backed by Bradfordians, was doing on the ground.
Mr Malik, who was accompanying other fundraisers from a Birmingham mosque, travelled in an aid convoy with Turkish-based IHH Humanitarian Relief Foundation, which helped get them a safe passage into the troubled territory across the border from Hatay.
The volunteers made their way to an Islamic Relief warehouse inside Syria and loaded up their trucks to take food parcels to camps witnessing people forced out of their homes living in makeshift shelters – some built with mud-bricks. He said handing out aid made him realise how charity work back in the UK has to continue.
He said: “All of us realised that every one of those appeals and events, hours shaking buckets, meant more than just fundraising.
“They were a lifeline for families like the ones we met in the camps.
“However, it also made us realise that one-off fundraising events just won’t be enough.
“For as long as these people are there, in that valley, we have to continue.” As well as taking out aid, Islamic Relief has also set up a school, a prayer space and other facilities in one of the camps Mr Malik visited.
During the tour he also went to a field hospital at Bab el Hawa, run by Islamic Relief in what used to be a fuel service station.
While he was there a girl died after suffering severe shrapnel wounds from an airstrike.
He said: “We left feeling heartbroken and helpless. Our only solace was knowing that thousands of others would be saved through treatment at this hospital.”
Now back in Bradford, Mr Malik is putting together more fundraising projects to keep desperately-needed aid flowing in Syria, he said: “Winter is biting in now, it could go on until March.
“Temperatures are falling below zero. There’s so much more we need to do to help.”
To find out more about supporting Islamic Relief’s work in Syria or how to make a donation go to islamic-relief.org.uk.