Youth Moderator urges people to donate school bags for refugee children

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The NYA has launched a backpack appeal to help young Syrian refugees settle into Scottish schools.

Church of Scotland members are being urged to donate backpacks packed full of essential items to help prepare refugee children for school.

The rallying call to congregations across the country has been issued by the National Youth Assembly (NYA) who want to "do something practical out of Christian love" to help vulnerable people aged 4-18 who have been forced to flee war-torn Syria with their families and settle in Scotland.

NYA Moderator Hannah Mary Goodlad said she and her team hoped to collect and distribute between 150-200 school bags, filled with items like pens, pencils, erasers and rulers, this year.

Practical support

Around 2,000 Syrian refugees are expected to settle in Scotland by 2020 – about 10% of the UK total.

The NYA also intends to distribute some of the backpacks to the St Andrews Refugee Service (StARS) which is run by St Andrew's United Church of Cairo.

Established in 1979, it is one of the first organisations in Egypt dedicated to improving the quality of life of refugees, asylum seekers, and vulnerable migrants and will help 11,500 men women and children this year.

Miss Goodlad, who is originally from Shetland but now based in Aberdeen, said: "The team and I have launched our Backpack Appeal with the first round of school bags going out to Syrian children arriving in Scotland.;

"We wanted to do something practical out of Christian love to help these vulnerable children.

"Following on from our discussions on child exploitation, human trafficking and the importance of education at last years' Youth Assembly, we decided to take action."

Life changing

Miss Goodlad, a member of Queen's Cross Church in Aberdeen, said education was a "route out of exploitation" for many children.

"Education is quite simply life-changing and life-saving," she added.

"We hope that these bags can be a small step in the children's education journey.

"It's our hope and prayer that, given time, they will call Scotland their home."

The deadline for collecting backpacks from individual churches is June 12 and NYA representatives, who have acquired about 40 so far, will be travelling round the country to pick them up.

People are also being encouraged to make donations to the Backpack Appeal.

A total of £170 has been donated against a £500 target to date.

Sanctuary

In September 2015 the Church of Scotland resolved to establish a refugee co-ordination project as a response to the situation and a way to harness the outpouring of goodwill and desire to act which was being expressed by many congregations across the country.

The Kirk is working with Christian, Jewish, Muslim and Interfaith groups as part of the Scottish Faiths Action for Refugees

The Moderator of the General Assembly the Right Rev Dr Angus Morrison recently urged Home Secretary Theresa May to provide sanctuary for more men, women and children fleeing persecution.

He told that her that while the Kirk and other faith groups welcomed the generosity of UK Government ministers in providing aid and contributing to relief efforts in the region around Syria, kindness must be matched by offering people safe haven.

Deputy First Minister John Swinney told a Church of Scotland Holyrood election hustings event in Edinburgh on Monday that the SNP would be "very keen" to take in more refugees but has to operate within the limitations that the UK Government applies.