This article appears in today's Leicester Mercury:
City's Syrian families in bid to help out refugees
Syrian families living in Leicester are helping to raise thousands of pounds for refugees fleeing the Assad regime.
The small community in the city is supporting the charity Hand in Hand for Syria, which is sending much-needed medical and food supplies to refugees in camps in Lebanon and Turkey.
Three of the four charity trustees live in Leicester and they are holding a fund-raising meal on Sunday at the University of Leicester.
The country has been rocked by violence since the uprising against President Bashar Assad started one year ago.
The UN says more than 8,000 people have been killed, many of them unarmed protesters.
Charity trustee Fadi Al-Dairi said: "We all have relatives who live in Syria or who have fled their homes and are living in refugee camps.
"I have family who have fled Homs so I have to be very careful what I say. But, they are in desperate need of help. They need medical equipment, medicines and first aid materials, food and equipment to keep them warm."
He said: "We are strictly humanitarian and want to protect and save life."
The charity was formed last year and has so far raised nearly £70,000.
It has also managed to smuggle food and medical equipment into Syria.
He added: "We desperately need money and the local community has been very generous.
"But fund-raising is not the principle aim of the event. We want to raise the plight of the refugees and the civilians suffering in Syria."
One of the charity's supporters, a doctor from Leicester, who did not want to be named for fear of reprisals, said: "There are about 10 families from Syria in the Leicester area and they have been active in supporting our humanitarian efforts.
"We have been helped by the wider community including people from Libya, because they know what we are going through. We have been successful in getting essential life-saving supplies through. But we need to do more.
"We hope the meal will encourage more people from the wider community to contact us and help us in our work."
The event on Sunday will be addressed by one of the charity's trustees, Omar Abdul Gubbar, who is an orthopaedic consultant for the University of Leicester Hospitals Trust.
It will be held at the O2 Academy, in University Road, on the University of Leicester campus, beginning at 2pm.
Entry, which includes the price of the meal, costs £15 for adults and £10 for children.
For more information and to buy tickets, visit: www.handinhandforsyria.org