Earlier this month Mancunians celebrated Manchester being ranked third, in the annual index of best cities in the world compiled by Time Out magazine. This buzzing city known for its nightlife, diversity, creativity and community spirit, came behind the tourist hotspots of San Francisco and Amsterdam in the index. Following quick on the heels of that accolade came another, this time celebrating Manchester’s heart, when the city was celebrated as a “northern humanitarian powerhouse” for it’s charitable work.
Charity organisations gathered on Thursday 16 September for an event hosted by the Mines Advisory Group (MAG) at Manchester’s People’s History Museum to celebrate the city’s humanitarian impact across the world. The event was attended by MAG, Syria Relief, University of Manchester HCRI, UK-Med, Hope for Justice, In Place of War, Omega Research Foundation and GISF. MPs Afzal Khan and Mike Kane and the lord mayor and lady mayoress of Manchester also attended the event. Syria Relief’s CEO Othman Moqbel said:
“Manchester is a northern humanitarian powerhouse. It’s home to not just some of the leading charities and NGOs in the UK but in the world. The eight organisations joining us tonight reached a combined total of over five million women, girls, boys and men in over 100 countries in 2020. That’s amazing — and it speaks volumes of the kind of globally connected and compassionate city Manchester is.”
Lizzie Humphreys of the Mines Advisory Group, told The Meteor: “We began planning this event in the new year and made lots of connections. It’s the first time we have done anything like this. We wanted to show variety. Everyone knows the London human rights organisations, but why not Manchester? There are so many organisations here doing incredible work.”
At the beginning of the event, rising star and BBC Rap Game UK contestant, Meduulla, 22, unveiled a music video for her brand new track Home, a song written specially for the event to reflect “Global Manchester”. Maruvaashe Shongedza, known professionally as Meduulla, was born in Zimbabwe but raised in Manchester. Meduulla speaking to The Meteor at the event, said: “My passion for humans influences my music. I would describe my music as conscious. It is important to tell stories we don’t hear about and I want my voice to be used to amplify the voices of others.”
The new and ground-breaking partnership between HCRI and MAG was also announced at the event. Professor Larissa Fast, the Executive Director of the University of Manchester’s HCRI (Humanitarian and Conflict Response Institute), said: “This partnership will facilitate an even closer relationship between MAG and HCRI, which aims to develop research to help the world move more quickly and efficiently towards the goal of a landmine-free future. HCRI is proud to work alongside charities like MAG, who are saving and changing lives worldwide.”
Salford based charity, Syria Relief, is the UK’s largest Syria-focused charity. Earlier this month the charity marked its 10th anniversary since it was founded on 8 September 2011. The organisation was created in response to the humanitarian needs resulting from the war in Syria, which began in March 2011. They provide lifesaving and life-changing support to millions of Syrians every year through emergency interventions, providing medical facilities, food, clean water, shelter, orphan support, protection and education.
Research shows 99% of Internally Displaced Persons in war-torn Idlib, Northwest Syria have symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Charles Lawley, the author of the report and Syria Relief’s head of communications and advocacy, told The Meteor:
“The suffering of Syrians is a symptom of a political disease. We need political change and solutions. As the humanitarian crises in Syria are so common, we get stuck in a cycle. It has become no longer newsworthy. If it’s not on the news the public don’t know about it, and if they don’t know about it, there is no pressure on the government and therefore no political will to do anything about the crisis. Syria Relief keeps the media informed.”
The Mines Advisory Group, who are based in Deansgate, showcased their work at the event. Adam Komorowski, regional director for Latin America at MAG, speaking to The Meteor said:
“Children are huge victims of landmines. Women going out to get water for cooking can end up collecting chemically contaminated water. We look at how people are vulnerable in their everyday lives and provide them with crucial information of how to protect themselves.”
The charity finds and destroys landmines, cluster munitions and unexploded bombs in places affected by conflict. Since 1989, the charity has helped over 19 million people in 68 countries rebuild their lives and livelihoods after war. In addition, MAG provides risk education which teaches people potentially life-saving information like how to spot contamination, avoid threats like unexploded bombs and landmines and report them. This is particularly important for children and returning communities.
The University of Manchester is taking part in an active role to improve crisis response on a global scale. The institution is training students to become the best humanitarians and peace builders they can be to drive life-saving change and create better and safer futures globally.
Stephanie Rinaldi, research programme manager at The University of Manchester told The Meteor about the HCRI offering a range of courses relating to human rights, conflict response and charitable work. One of the courses the university offers is a Humanitarianism and Conflict Response master’s degree, which teaches students how to respond to crises originating from both conflict-zones and natural disasters. The subject brings the disciplines of medicine and the humanities, including international relations and political science, together.
Hope for Justice explained their crucial work in preventing the exploitation of people and helping victims to restore their lives. The organisation works with local authorities like the police to rescue victims of slavery. Hope for Justice also works with high schools and colleges, as well as having a speaker programme in schools and a traineeship programme.
The organisation, with an office in Manchester, campaigns for policy change and helps businesses protect their operations and supply chains from modern slavery. Hope for Justice also work across five continents and are based in different countries such as Ethiopia, Uganda, United States and Cambodia. Employees have qualifications and experience across business, law enforcement and advocacy and are trained in safeguarding.
Amy Harris, fundraiser for Hope for Justice, said: “Many people do not know what modern slavery is. The most common slavery we come across in the U.K. is slave labour. This involves people working long hours with very little pay and they are usually cash in hand jobs. A lot of international students travel abroad to study and many of them do not know their rights and could fall into this trap.”
The event at the Peoples History Museum demonstrated how Manchester’s community spirit and passion for human rights transcends the city. Manchester’s spirit is felt across the world. Its institutions are full of professionals with extraordinary talent and expertise doing vital work to save lives and build safer futures for people around the world. In a world where humanitarian crises have become extremely complex and messy, Mancunians have stepped up to the challenge and continue to fight for justice and human rights.
The Meteor is a media co-operative, if you would like to find out more about joining and supporting our work – click here.
Sign up to The Meteor mailing list – click here.
Feature image: Yasmin Al-najar