The Humanitarian Aid Relief Trust (HART) supports people suffering from conflict and persecution in places with little or no international attention and help. HART works with around twenty local partners across eight countries in the spheres of education, environment, health, human rights and women’s empowerment. Six of these countries are in the tropical zones, whilst Syria and Nagorno-Karabakh are in the Middle East and the South Caucasus, respectively. HART recognises that local people are best placed to identify their own needs, and places them at the helm of their development efforts.
About four years ago Baroness Caroline Cox, founder of HART, visited St. Michaels, inspiring and amazing us with her bravery and that of her staff and colleagues. Undertaking often dangerous and arduous journeys they provide unflinching support to their partners and intervene wherever possible on their behalf.
We have endeavoured to keep the congregations and friends of our church abreast of HART’s current activities whose priorities often change quite rapidly, as is currently the case.
Nagorno Karabakh: This autumn a conflict launched by Azerbaijan and supported by Turkey, against Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh, has flared up most seriously, with bombing and artillery attacks threatening the lives, safety and structure of the staff and residents of the Lady Cox Rehabilitation Centre. Located in Artsakh, day visits to the centre, which assists physically disabled children and young people, plus youngsters who are for example autistic, have completely ceased. Non-essential staff and residents have fled to the regional capital Stepanakert to join families including small children who are sheltering in basements against shellfire.
These military offensives against the Armenian enclave involve more sophisticated weapons and aircraft, compared with past offensives, and there is a very real possibility that the entire region will be over-run, in accordance with Azerbaijan’s internationally stated aim. This is likely to lead to ethnic cleansing and terrible bloodshed.
Other subjects recently covered in our news from HART have included:
Sheltering in a basement in Stepanakert include former visitors and staff of the Lady Cox Rehabilitation Centre, Nagorno Karabakh.
Syria: In the mountains above Damascus in a town called Maaloula, HART supports local women’s groups to fortify winter food security and to strengthen efforts to rebuild homes, churches, and community facilities. Winters are severe and in the autumn of 2019 we supported an emergency appeal to provide blankets, clothing and supplementary food supplies.
Myanmar/Burma: The mistreatment and persecution of ethnic groups by the Burmese Army and government continues, receiving only sporadic media attention by the Western press and TV. The disgraceful, inhumane treatment of Rohingya Muslims near the Bangladeshi borders is quite well known. However attacks and expropriation of land in the Shan and Kachin states have also persisted for many years. HART cannot cover the whole of Myanmar/Burma, so it concentrates support through the Shan State Women’s Action Network (SWAN). This provides family planning, health and maternal care training through the principle of “training the trainers.” Its positive impact benefits around 55 small villages totalling around 1600 people plus 1000 student health workers.
Other HART partnerships include: a project in Timor Leste, South-East Asia, involving food security using crop husbandry, combined with appropriate intermediate technology training; work for an orphanage in a remote part of Northern Uganda, including poultry keeping and low-cost solar power.
The supported communities nearly all suffer from protracted conflict, oppression, human rights abuses and deeply entrenched poverty. Locally-led solutions aim to operate with a feasible degree of national and international security, but sadly this is not always possible, as clearly demonstrated by the current situation in the Caucasus, for example. Hence aid must go hand-in-hand with advocacy.
Strong and persistent advocacy is targeted on the UK government, the Commonwealth Secretariat and other international influencers by Lady Cox, using her position as a cross-bench peer.
In Syria, civil war began in March 2011. The conflict has devastated the whole country, and fighting has still not ended in the north. Sanctions and international actions led by the current administration in the USA are believed by many Western experts trusted by HART to be causing immense suffering to Syrian communities in all districts, without prospects of influencing the Syrian Government. UN agencies and human rights bodies are calling for change and on this basis HART is lobbying for the UK foreign aid policy towards Syria to be revised.
Learn about these and other current HART advocacies – those pursued on behalf of Nigerians living in remote areas for example - through their website at www.hart-uk.org . Look for “Headlines” and for the “Locations” section, where all the countries covered may be found. Detailed descriptions of the work of HART partners are also available. Furthermore “The Religious Landscape in Syria” is a recommended and informative blog of academic quality written by Andrew Ashdown, an ordained Anglican priest who is one of HART’s experienced staffers.