Greater Ballinasloe Turkey /Syria / Gaza Christmas Appeal 2023

CINDERES, SYRIA – FEBRUARY 7: Collapsed building following an earthquake on February 7, 2023 in Afrin, Cinderes, Syria. A 7.8-magnitude earthquake hit near Gaziantep, Turkey, in the early hours of Monday, followed by another 7.5-magnitude tremor just after midday. The quakes caused widespread destruction in southern Turkey and northern Syria and were felt in nearby countries. (Photo bu Ugur Yildirim/ dia images via Getty Images)

Sincere thanks to everyone who contributed to this appeal and to all who remembered it in prayer. As of 24th January 2024 a total of €17,850 has been raised and forwarded to Trócaire.


In 2021 and 2022 we sought your financial aid on behalf of Syrian Refugees in the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon, On their behalf and our own we thank all who contributed. Over €21,400.oo was directed through Trócaire’s partner agencies in the Valley toward meeting very basic human needs.

So many disasters have occurred in 2023 that we can easily forget that a Mw 7.8 earthquake struck southern and central Turkey and northern and western Syria on February 6, 2023, killing tens of thousands of people, flattening wide areas of cities and sending the region, which was already grappling with a refugee crisis and over a decade of war, into a monumental recovery effort.

Sadly too there are hundreds of thousands of children, women and men currently suffering in Gaza.

All monies raised through this Christmas Appeal will be forwarded to Trócaire to forward to Partner Agencies who are advancing relief efforts in all three regions.

Our target is two-fold: to nurture hope and the will to overcome such tragedy, and to offer basic life assistance (food, clothing, accommodation) to two hundred families


  • Debit or credit card or PayPal (see below).
    Donations via PayPal will be acknowledged in the name of ‘The Knights of St. Columbanus’. See Acknowledgement at the end of this webpage for explanation.
  • Lodge to ‘Syrian Refugee Appeal A/c’ Account No. 31997, Ballinasloe Credit Union.
  • Give your donation to a member of this year’s Fundraising Committee (see below).


The names and contact details of this year’s committee are:

Tom Corbett,
087 2211989.

Damien Farrell,
& Portiuncula Hospital
085 7214619.

Josephine Mulryan,
St. Michael’s Church & Kilgarve.,
087 7883264.

Siveen Bradley
St. Michael’s Church
086 0805078.

Mary B. Killeen
Co. Galway
H53 VK25
086 1052022

John Weldon
(Liaison with Syrian Communities in Ireland),
087 9068032.

Padraic Kilduff
Moore-Clonfad parish
Creggane, Oldtown
086 1608451

Justin Harkin
H53 YR92
087 6171526

Sean Kelly
Clontuskert & Aughrim parishes
Co. Galway
086 1647970

Each of us is grateful for the support of a broader network of families and friends.

A holy hour for all who are suffering in Gaza, Turkey and Syria will take place in St. Michael’s Church, Ballinasloe, from 6 to 7 pm on Sunday the 7th January. This will mark the end of this initaitive and will also be accessible online @


We will publish on this website and in parish newsletters the total amount received. All monies received will be forwarded to Trócaire.

We wish to express thanks to St. Grellan’s (Ballinasloe & District) Council of The Knights of St. Columbanus for the administrative and secretarial support they are providing this initiative. We are particularly grateful for their willingness to lend their charitable status to this intiative, making Credit and Debit Card and PayPal contributions possible.

Page Updated: 24th January 2024.


During October, November and December 2020 our appeal raised €12,392.00.

Sawa for Development and Aid (SAWA / is a Lebanese grassroot organisation working with Syrian refugees in the Bekaa Valley in Leban. It was founded in 2011 as a reaction to the dire need for support for Syrian refugees, and works with Syrian families in the camps providing relief, education and livelihood support. They are supported by Trócaire and the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR).

An ongoing multi-sided civil war in Syria, which erupted in 2011, has forced 6 million Syrians out of their homes, 2 million of them into other countries. The consequent humanitarian crisis remains one of the most critical in our world and was made worse by the Covid 19 pandemic. Furthermore, emerging needs in other countries, e.g. Ukraine, Somalia, South Sudan, Mozambique and Bolivia, have meant that Syrian Refugees have not received the same level of international support in recent years.

Refugee Children delighted to be enjoying the warmth and comfort generated by a winter blanket

According to the UNHCR, as of 31/10/ 2019, the total number of registered refugees in Syrian Refugee Camps in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley stood at 342,875 individuals / 76,358 families (3.5 times the population of Galway city and 21 times the population of Athlone).

During November / December 2020 and 2021 a small group of adults in the Greater Ballinasloe area, all members of the CREIDEAMH Network, initiated two fundraising drives to support efforts in The Bekaa Valley.

Given the ongoing need in the region for even the most basic of supplies, e.g. winter clothing, food, reinforced plastic tarps (for tents), blankets and solar laterns, we have opted to reach out on their behalf again. Sadly, survival remains their priority.

In this instance we shall be enjoying some support from Trócaire. More details later.

Furthermore, we are very conscious that we are reaching out to women and men, many of whom have given and continue to give generously to other charitable purposes this year.

We hope the information that follows, will encourage you to include our Syrian sisters and brothers too.

We have also included details of our 2020 and 2021 fundraising efforts and reports on how the monies raised were spent.

2021 Report

During November and December 2021, thanks to the generosity of many women and men in the greater Ballinasloe area and of family and friends further afield, members of our network raised €15,208.00 to help Syrian Refugees living in the Beqaa Valley in Lebanon.

Trócaire kindly added an additional €34,792.00 to this amount bringing the total that was forwarded to Sawa for Development and Aid in Lebanon, to €50.000.00.

More recently Trócaire and SAWA kindly forwarded a report on how this contribution of €50,000.00 was spent between January and March 2022.

To download and read the report please click this Report Icon.

Trócaire-SAWA Report 2022

The report reveals that between January and March 2022 inclusive:

  • 385 families were supported in acquiring winter clothing
  • 322 sheets of Tarpaulin were purchased and used to construct, reconstruct and repair tents
  • 515 planks of wood were purchased and used to replace and repair tents damaged by storms, heavy snowfall and other inclement weather conditions.

We have decided to leave it to SAWA in consultation with refugees and Trócaire personnel to determine what the funds we raise should be spent on and they remain committed to furnishing us with a written report outlining expenditure.

The report contains many photographs, a stark reminder of the incredible vulnerability of the Syrian Refugees, some now resident in the camps for twelve years.

2020 Report

Reconstruction of a tent in the Bekaa Valley in March 2022 after the weight of winter snow had damaged the previous frame and ten years wear and tear had caused the heavy plastic to leak.

Arising from this 160 families living in the Bekaa Valley each received three blankets and three mattresses. Each mattress cost €13.40 and each blanket €7.60 and related delivery and administrative charges came to €2,186.00, much of it paid to refugees on the bread-line in the camps.

Our effort brought great joy … not least because it communicated to hard pressed families that they were not forgotten.

Children assisting with the delivery of mattresses in the Bekaa Valley. Such mattresses, by elevating women, men and children 3 inches from the ground also contribute to physical wellbeing during the winter months.

Those of us who served on the fundraising committee were quite humbled by the experience. Firstly, we had not anticipated the very generous response of so many friends and neighbours. Secondly, while the importance of blankets had registered with us we had not considered the importance of mattresses to health and wellbeing for the 320,000 refugees in the Bekaa Valley, many of whom still live in tents.


In 2020 we queried and costed with Trócaire if it would be cheaper to collect blankets and clothing, dry-clean and wash same, place them in sealed bags and send via a container to the Bekaa Valley. Unfortunately transportation and import duties were prohibitive.

Our research (see also revealed that the following items could be got to Syrian Refugees in the Bekaa Valley for the following amounts:

Winter Clothing
for 3 refugees: €40.00

Solar Latern
(safe to use in tent
& double as mobile
phone chargers): €38.00

Reinforced Plastic Tarps
(to reinforce tents
against flooding & storms): €13

Warm Winter Gloves
(6 pairs): €25


On Wednesday 11th November 2020 Deirdre Ó Murchadha of Athlone Community Radio interviewed Niall O’Keeffe, Head of Region – Middle East & Asia, Trócaire concerning his recent visit to Syria and the Syrian Refugee Camps in the Bekaa Valley.

Our thanks to Deirdre and Athlone Community Radio for allowing us to make her interview available here.

Part 1

Part 2


We remain eager not to misrepresent life in the Syrian Refugee camps in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley, especially the dignity and resilience of the Syrian residents, and the many pragmatic life-giving initiatives supported by Trócaire, SAWA and other agencies in partnership with refugee families and volunteers. The following photographs and Trocaire 2019 Lenten video are offered in this spirit.

Maya, 10, is a Syrian refugee who has fled the war and lives with her family in the Beqaa valley in Lebanon. Photo : Simon Walsh / Trócaire.
Maya enjoys doing art activities with her sister Amira (11), and brother Farid (13) at the ‘Safe Haven Centre’ provided by Trócaire’s partner SAWA. Photo : Garry Walsh / Trócaire.
It feels like a breath of fresh air to enter the centre, which has a wide open playground area surrounded by flowers. The children attending the centre enjoy playing on the swings, clambering up the climbing frame and spinning around in the playground. Photo: Simon Walsh / Trócaire.
Maya’s younger sister Reem (7) enjoys doing art activities at the ‘Safe Haven Centre’ provided by Trócaire’s partner SAWA. Photo : Garry Walsh / Trócaire.
Maya’s younger sister Reem (7) works on her homework in the dark of the family home. Photo : Garry Walsh / Trócaire.
Children playing in a refugee camp in the  Beqaa valley in Lebanon. Photo : Simon Walsh / Trócaire.
Maya’s family live in very basic rented accommodation. The house doesn’t even have windows and a door which makes it prone to flooding in the Winter. Photo: Simon Walsh / Trócaire.
A photograph of a small section of the informal refugee camps of Bar Elias in the Bekaa valley, Lebanon. Over one million Syrian refugees continue to live in this valley, next to the border of their home country, Syria. Prior to the outbreak of the war in 2011 this valley was predominantly agricultural land. Photo: Simon Walsh / Trócaire.
Bar Elias camp in the Bekaa valley covered in snow in January 2019. Trócaire supported SAWA in 2019 with the purchase of fuel to keep refugees warm and with the purchase and distribution of tarpaulin sheets (used to reinforce tents and to help prevent flooding). Photo : SAWA
Mohamed, a young Syrian refugee collects blankets following the flooding of hundreds of tents in his Refugee Camp in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley due to Storm Norma on January 7th 2019. Shovels and mattresses (other core relief items) were also distributed. Photo: UNHCR/Diego Ibarra Sánchez
An example of the kind of coat that could be given to a child in need of one in the camps. Picture: UNHCR//Andrew McConnell

On behalf of the Greater Ballinasloe Syrian Refugee Appeal committee supporting this initiative (see names above), our friends in SAWA and Trócaire, THANK YOU!

Updated: 20th December 2022