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Shopping with a Conscience: Supporting the Syria Crisis Appeal with URBANARA



Online homewares store URBANARA has teamed up with OXFAM this winter to give £5 from the sale of every blanket to the Syria Crisis Appeal.  Why blankets?  URBANARA say that the blanket offers everything the home symbolises – security, warmth and comfort.  They are also one of URBANARA’s most popular products, so they can count on plenty of donations on behalf of customers.

Sam from URBANARA explains their involvement with OXFAM:

“During the past two years, the world has watched as Syria has torn itself in half. Beginning with peaceful protests in the autumn of 2011, Syria has descended into possibly the most sectarian, devastating and protracted conflict of the 21st century.  Yet its effect on the lives of the innocent civilian population has only recently begun to be addressed. Since the start of the uprising against the regime of Baschar Al Assad during the Arab Spring, this internal conflict has transformed into a war characterised by sectarian division, foreign jihadists, government suppression and most alarmingly of all, brutal civilian massacres. But where has this left the population of Syria, who asked for nothing more than freedom of expression and belief, but who have been thrust into this cataclysmic conflict?

Recent statistics from the United Nations High Commission for Refugees sets the number of refugees at 100,000 people during the month of January 2013, bringing the total to just over 700,000 people dispersed between Syria’s neighbouring countries; Lebanon, Iraq, Turkey and Jordan.  There appears to be no immediate let up in this devastating conflict.  Despite continuing efforts to unite an increasingly fractured and radicalised opposition movement, and efforts to bring both the government and the opposition to the table, the conflict still appears to be deepening, further pushing innocent civilians to leave the conflict zones and attempt to cross the border to the safety of of the refugee camps.

But to what kind of safety?  This winter has been particularly harsh. With temperatures dropping, the tens of thousands of refugees seeking shelter are forced to spend the winter in tents without basic heat or adequate access to water, sanitation and other basic needs. While some have relatives or friends in Lebanon and Jordan with whom they can stay, there are many who are left to fend for themselves against the elements including a large amount of sick and elderly, wounded and children.  At places such as Zaatari in Jordon, and the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon, people are living in the most squalid of conditions.

Despite the scope of the international community’s operations to relieve the pressure on these people, organisations such as the Red Cross and Red Crescent are declaring that they can no longer cope with the worsening situation, describing the levels of international aid as being ‘drastically insufficient for a steadily worsening crisis’.  With the camps overflowing, many people have resorted to staying outside of the registered areas; as much as 40% of refugees in some places.  In places such as the Bakaar Valley in Lebanon, Médecins Sans Frontières has recently reported that as many as 220,000 Syrians that have escaped the conflict cannot obtain the necessary healthcare and infrastructure due to their lack of formal registration.  As many as 70% of those who arrive are being forced to spend the winter months housed in substandard collective shelters, farms, garages, building sites and old schools in an effort to find any protection against the elements outside of the refugee camps.

This exposure to the elements has meant an increase in health conditions, especially of the skin and respiratory system. Children are again, the ones who are suffering most from this lack of healthcare.  There is a lack of basic medicine, vaccinations, prescription drugs, effective pre-natal care, and combined with the savage weather conditions has only contributed to the extended suffering of the Syrian people.

So what can be done to help this seemingly impossible situation? Some, such our company, have decided to step into help. While only a small step on such a imposing mountain, we’ve have teamed up with OXFAM to try to offer some small relief to the Syrian people. Through a £5 donation from every blanket that they sell, OXFAM will be able to provide blankets, mattresses and warm clothes as well as social support, post traumatic stress counselling and basic water and sanitation services.

Through this small macro level support, we really believe that people can make a difference. Despite worldwide government inaction and an increasingly devastating and divided conflict, any small show of hope for these long suffering people will ease the pain of existing away from their homes, their livelihoods and their country. We believe whole heartedly that this small scale donation effort is the way forward. With the United Nations Commission on Human Rights suggesting that the levels of international aid is too low, it is down to those who have a true desire to improve these peoples situation that will make the greatest changes to the lives of the thousands of refugees that have fled the conflict”.

To read more about URBANARA’s involvement in the Syria Crisis Appeal you can visit their website, and browse their selection of beautiful blankets:

urbanara blankets

ethical blankets

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Garden, Home and Garden

Allotment Ideas: Inspiring Allotments

allotment ideas

allotment ideas

For a long time allotment gardening was widely seen as the preserve of older men in flat caps (remember Arthur and his allotment in Eastenders? ), as a place to potter about and sit in their sheds.  However, as food prices continue to grow higher and higher, and more and more modern housing developments are created without any private gardens, more and more people are getting in to allotment gardening.

Allotment gardening is a great and cheap way to have access to your own plot of land for growing fruit and vegetables (approximately £50 a year for a standard sized plot); the allotment community is friendly and sociable and keen to share knowledge and swap seeds; and it’s a relaxing and fairly stress-free hobby (as long as slugs don’t attack!).

Now, it’s true that allotments aren’t exactly renowned for looking particularly pleasing on the eye, but whilst browsing the internet for allotment ideas I came across a few that really grabbed me:

Inspiring Allotment Ideas

The Traditional Allotment

This traditional style allotment, found on Fennel & Fern, looks beautiful and really productive:

beautiful allotment

It seems that with a bit of planning and forethought allotments can look good as well as being practical (although it does help if you have some stellar carpentry skills to create that shed!).

The Modern Allotment

Whilst browsing the internet, it also struck me that developers are cottoning on to the fact that people want access to garden space.  These modern allotments at Saxton in Leeds are a great example of developers incorporating allotments into modern flat developments.  Although the plots are small there is still plenty scope for growing a variety of different vegetables, and I have the say the multi-colour sheds are very aesthetically pleasing.  Who wouldn’t want to be out at their allotment on a gloriously sunny day?

modern allotment

Images from Urban Splash

I know they aren’t the biggest of plots, but it’s given me all sorts of allotment ideas – a brightly coloured shed and some raised beds for starters!

Want Your Own Allotment?

All fired up and wanting your very own allotment?  The best bet is to contact your local council, however the National Allotment Society may also be a useful port of call.

However, I’m not wanting to burst your bubble, but in case you weren’t aware, there is a terrible problem of supply and demand, in that there are often huge waiting lists for allotment spaces.  In some parts of Edinburgh alone there are 9 year waiting lists, and sadly, from what I am aware of, the Council is doing very little to help free up more land for allotments.  In many places up and down the country allotments have even been sold off to developers.

You might be wondering what you can do about this?  There is an online petition that you can sign that calls for the Government to introduce and implement a new allotment strategy to help improve the current provision and increase the number of allotments available to meet demand.  You can sign it here – it’s open until 18th January 2014 and needs at least 20,000 signatures so please spread the word.

I have heard of some areas of the country where there are allotments ready and waiting for occupiers, so it may be that you are one of the lucky few, but in any case, sign the petition for all of us less privileged!