‘Beyond a Simple Solidarity’: Portugal’s New Donation Drive for Syrian Refugees in Hungary

Aylan Kurdi Caravan

Screenshot from Facebook

Following the tragic discovery of Alan Kurdi, the refugee boy found dead on a beach, people in Lisbon have organized a campaign to collect goods for the thousands of refugees now held in Hungary. On the campaign's Facebook page, visitors find this introduction to the project:

A imagem de Aylan Kurdi despertou o mundo para esta crise.
Esta iniciativa tem o nome dele e deve-lhe grande parte da inspiração.
Esta caravana de vários veículos é uma iniciativa da sociedade civil e pretende levar aos refugiados na Hungria, comida, roupa, brinquedos, produtos de higiene pessoal e vários bens de primeira necessidade.
Será uma sólida demonstração da solidariedade do Povo Português.

Alan Kurdi's image awaked the world to this humanitarian crisis. This initiative has this boy's name and owes its inspiration to him. The convoy with several cars its an initiative of civil society wishing to take food, clothes, toys, and essentials to the refugees now held in Hungary. It is a demonstration of the Portuguese people's solidarity.

The campaign's popularity has spread quickly in Portugal, even gaining the attention of the country's mainstream media, which expanded the project's visibility and helped bring in more donations.

Campaign organizers in the media

Campaign organizers in the media. Photo: Facebook (used with permission).

The donations drive started spontaneously, organizers say. Storage and delivery have been settled along the way, as various businesses have stepped up to shoulder some of the costs. “It started with five vans and it's already reached 15,” organizers have told the Portuguese media, saying they also managed to get one big truck to drive to Hungary. The convoy is scheduled to set out by September 18 and arrive in Hungary by September 20.

Currently, organizers are focusing on coordinating the logistics of arranging collection points for the convoy, on its way to the refugees. The trucks will pass through cities like Porto, in the north of the country, Leiria centre, and Lisbon, where the warehouses are. The goods being collected are clothes, toys, food, and first aid.

Organizers are also asking for volunteers to help with the logistics and volunteer as drivers. They're also receiving help from private companies, which are providing logistical support:

Ponto de situação: Podem continuar a recepção das doações em vossas casas e nos vossos locais de trabalho.
. Várias IPSS, empresas e organizações estão a receber as doações.
. A partir de segunda temos carrinhas ligeiras para iniciar a recolha, basta enviarem morada e descrição da mercadoria com fotos de preferência.
. Já temos o apoio de várias grandes empresas Portuguesas, tanto para doar bens como para a logística de armazenamento e transporte.
. Vamos ter 3 armazéns, Porto, Leiria e Lisboa onde vamos concentrar os bens.
. Mantemos o prazo de partida para Sexta 18.
Mais uma vez obrigado a todos.

Situation status: Keep collecting donations at your home and work. Several companies and institutions are collecting donations too. Starting from Monday [September 14] we start collecting it with the vans, please sen the addresses for us to collect it. We also have now the support of big Portuguese companies either for donations and to help with the logistics like storing and transport. We will have 3 warehouses in Porto, Leiria, and Lisbon where everything will be stored. We keep the deadline to leave next Friday the 18th. Once again, thank you all.

Global Voices spoke to Maria Miguel Ferreira, who volunteers with the project. Maria says the campaign's current plans might change at the very last moment, once these vans and trucks arrive in Hungary:

Estamos em contacto com várias ONG na Hungria, estamos a identificar zonas de passagem nas fronteiras com outros países, mas as ONG actualizam-nos numa base diária sobre onde se pode aceder e aquilo de que precisam. Por esse motivo, a decisão das zonas dentro da Hungria onde nos vamos dirigir e das ONG com que vamos interagir só será tomada mais próximo da data de chegada.

We are in contact with several NGOs in Hungary, identifying passage ways at the border with neighboring countries. The NGOs at the region are sending us daily updates about where we can pass through and also what they need the most. For that reason, we can only decide where the caravan will end closest to the arrival date and according to the NGOs’ indication.

When asked what the campaign's plans are for the future, after this first convoy, Maria said organizers are “focusing on this caravan for the time being.”

In the meantime, donors are taking photos of their donations before delivering the goods to the collection points. The image below, left by a mother named Xana Alves, includes the following message:

Tudo empacotado! Agora vamos passar num dos pontos de recolha Aylan Kurdi Caravan.
Pode não parecer muito, mas achamos que este gesto faz com que os nossos filhos cresçam a perceber que fazer pelos outros vai muito para além do “post solidário” nas redes sociais. Sem querer ser moralista. Só para partilhar convosco.

All packed! Now we are going to take it to one of the collecting points of Alan Kurdi Caravan. It might not be much, but we want our kids to see it and grow their understanding that helping others goes beyond a simple solidarity post on social network. I don't want to be a moralist, though. Only to share with all of you.


Photo: Xana Alves / Facebook

Earlier this month, the bodies of refugees Alan Kurdi, 3, and his brother Galip, 5, washed up on the beach of the Turkish holiday resort of Bodrum. Images of their remains made global headlines and prompted an outpouring of sympathy for the Syrian refugees now pouring into Europe.

This is a sand sculpture to honor toddler Alan Kurdi on the beach.

Read more of our special coverage: Streams of Refugees Seek Sanctuary in Europe

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