Rob Hallam

Newsletter 2015-01-12: Welcome Back and SPB Launch!


Welcome to 2015!

I hope everyone had a thoroughly enjoyable holiday period and a great new year! I also hope everyone is looking forward to the second semester as much as I am. We had a great first half of the year, and the second will be even better! I’m really proud of everything we’ve achieved so far and I know we can achieve even more. Let’s make it happen in 2015.

Due to a couple of unfortunate computer mishaps I’ve lost progress in writing this newsletter, so tho first edition will be a succinct account of what’s on this week; with a bigger, better edition to follow next week. Thanks for your patience, and on with the show.

First Meeting: Tuesday 13th January 2015 – SPB Preview!

Tuesday 13th January 2015 5PM, Williams Room, John MacIntyre Building

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I’m very excited to inform you that this week we have a real treat: the Secret Policeman’s Ball preview. This will be held in the Williams Room of the John MacIntyre Building, which is right at the main gates. You can find the room on the left at the top of the stairs if you enter from the doors on University Avenue. If you enter from the other side of the building you can find the stairs at the back, along the corridor and the vending machines. Any questions, just get in touch and we’ll help you out.

Billy Kirkwood is coming along to show us all the high standards of comedy we have at the SPB (check out the photos from last year) so you can get an idea of what to expect. Duncan and Joe will be there to tell us all about it too.

So bring along your friends and flatmates on Tuesday to see what comedic treats we’re in for in February! Join the Facebook event and invite folks along too!

Collaboration Event: Ebola Awareness Evening

‘The Face Behind the Symptoms’ – Thursday 15th January 5PM, John MacIntyre Building Room 208

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In collaboration with Oxfam, we would like to being to your attention The Face Behind the Symptoms, and ebola awareness event presented by Hannah Davies (who is just back from Sierra Leone) this Thursday at 5 PM in the John MacIntyre Building, in Room 208. Since the outbreak in west Africa in March 2014, there have been over 17 000 reported cases of ebola, and over 6 000 deaths. This makes it the worst ebola outbreak since the first known ones in 1976; and in fact worse than all other outbreaks combined.

Come along to learn more about what is happening, the people affected, and what you can do to help.

Here’s the Facebook event, please come along to what promises to be a very informative event.

Coalition for a Conflict-Free Glasgow University Screens ‘Blood in the Mobile’

Monday 19th January 2015, Venue TBC

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We’ve previously screened Blood in the Mobile ourselves. It’s a compelling look at the conflict mineral mining operations in the DR Congo; you’ll never look at a phone, tablet or camera the same again. The Coalition for a Conflict-Free Glasgow University (who hosted a recent conference) are planning on screening this powerful film again this Monday; we’re going along to watch it because as difficult as it is to see these things, it’s an important film.

Keep your eyes on their Facebook pageor ours! – for more details.

Thanks for Reading

With the awful events taking place this week it’s ever more important that we speak out for human right- freedom of speech and expression is fundamental. With that in mind, I will let the following images say more than I ever could:

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#JeSuisCharlie

Get in Touch

If you have any questions, suggestions or feedback you can always get in touch either via the website or on Facebook or Twitter.

Ellen MacAskill

Syria: A Humanitarian Crisis Three Years On

Syria has been in the headlines this week. It has been in the headlines for three years now. And the humanitarian crisis in a country wreaked by civil war only continues to get worse.

Why has more not been done? Why does the conflict persist? What can we do to help?

After a screening in Tuesday’s meeting of BBC Panorama’s ‘Saving Syria’s Children’, I think I speak for us all when I say we were left harrowed, speechless, and asking these questions.

On the following day the UK government announced plans to take in 500 of the most vulnerable refugees – with Nick Clegg insisting that this was an exhibition of our “open-hearted” nature – and the Glasgow University Coalition for Syrian Refugees hosted a panel discussion. The title:

‘Syria: I Can Still See Hope’

The CSR is a collaboration of societies on campus, including Amnesty International, put together to raise funds and awareness for Syria’s plight. Five speakers on Wednesday gathered to inform an audience of students and answer their questions.

First to speak was Kurt Mills, a senior lecturer in social sciences and representative of the Glasgow Human Rights Network. He tackled the day’s headlines straight away: 9.3 million Syrians need assistance and the few hundred that the UK are willing to help is a mere 0.0008% of our own population. Mills said that we should demand more than this “cynical ploy” and stop relying on the £600 million that we have donated in aid. Monetary aid is helpful, yes, but it ultimately keeps Syrians “bottled up” in an unsafe country.

Three speakers from charities stood up to describe the challenges of the situation and emphasise the good work that is already being done. Tristan Jones from Medicine Sans Frontiers outlined the struggle to deliver medical care in a warzone where hospitals themselves have been targeted. A dwindling number of doctors and resources tackling a huge number of casualties means that basic needs are often not met. MSR have been sending doctors to hidden locations, and giving vaccinations to children and antenatal care to women.

From British Red Cross, Patrick MacIntyre told us about the work of the charity in conjunction with Syrian Arab Red Crescent. They work under the principles of “impartiality and neutrality” to provide aid such as medicine, food and hygiene. An Emergency Appeal for Syria was first launched in 2012 and has been extended since.

Amby Karamchedu, president of GU UNICEF, focussed on the work being done to help children in refugee camps, such as Zaatari in Jordan, and in Syria itself. Crossing the border does not guarantee security for Syria’s 6 million affected children. UNICEF’s current aim is to “winterise” the camps so that refugees can deal with the extreme climate. Education is often neglected in Syria and the surrounding refugee camps, despite its benefits for the future of the country. Amby mentioned that campaigner Malala Yousafzai travelled to New York to urge UNICEF executives to increase focus on basic education.

The most moving speech of the night came from a courageous man who cannot be named. From the ancient city of Damascus, he fled Syria when he became endangered by the state. Many of his family and friends have met their fate since the uprisings of 2011. Recounting his story, he was overcome with emotion to the point of nearly breaking down. He urged us to recognise the “Syrian holocaust of the 21st century”.

His words silenced the room. The reaction was unanimous. No matter how many statistics we can reel off and pounds we can donate and articles we can read – nothing compares to the scale of personal tragedy that the Syrian conflict has inflicted.

The Q and A session proved interesting, with Mills pointing out that sending aid becomes more futile the longer the political situation goes un-addressed. We were urged to take individual action by donating what we can, informing ourselves and writing to MPs and newspapers.

When the question turned to the uncertain future of the country, the refugee concluded that he “can see hope as a Syrian”. The end of the conflict may not be imminent or quick, but we must continue to do all we can to give hope to Syria and its people.

If you missed the panel discussion but are interested in the Coalition for Syrian Refugees, look them up on Facebook for information and get involved at two fundraisers this Saturday the 1st, the Challenge and the Ceilidh.

 

P.S. Hello, I’m Ellen, GUAI’s new and first Press Officer! I’ll be updating the site weekly with blog posts and all the Amnesty chat you could ever need and more. See you Tuesday!