A CHARITY based in Caldicot is helping to support the millions of people who have been displaced by conflict in the Middle East, as well as offering a lifeline to families closer to home.

Set up in 2015, iNEED is run solely by volunteers and collects clothing, blankets and toiletries for refugees from the wars in Syria and Yemen.

The charity recently sent two large shipping containers full of aid to the two countries, but there is no end in sight to the high demand for donations as the conflicts drag on.

Julia Rowe, one of iNEED’s co-founders, said: “We’ve finally reached the bottom of a mountain of donations and we’re appealing for more. The situation in Yemen and in Syria is still desperate. Three million people have fled Yemen, and the UN estimates suggest that 15m people are on the brink of starvation.

“6.6m people have fled the conflict in Syria, with the vast majority living outside refugee camps in very dangerous situations. The country is still very unsafe and unstable and there are refugees both within Syrian borders and in neighbouring countries.

“We’re working with other charities to get clothing, bedding and other essentials to the civilians, including thousands of children who are in such desperate need.”

But as well as their international work, the volunteers at iNEED also help people locally.

“We respond to callouts from social services and council,” Ms Rowe said. “If anyone says ‘I need’, we’ll help.”

This type of community support has included finding items like bedframes and furniture for families who move into new homes, and is especially active around the Christmas period, when iNEED appeals for toy donations.

“One Christmas we were inundated with bikes, which was really heartening,” Ms Rowe said. “Children should be able to enjoy their childhood, no matter their circumstances.”

From modest beginnings, the charity now has around 20 regular volunteers, though Ms Rowe estimates hundreds of people have helped out at one time or another.

She said: “Lots of our volunteers are aged over 65, and one of our big things is to have a place where people can make friends and feel useful. People have said [the group] is combatting issues of loneliness and isolation.”

Much of the group’s work is centred around the sorting and packing of aid bound for the Middle East, but iNEED has also organised events in the UK, such as the two free Hope Festivals it put on for families in the past two summers.

These have helped “break down barriers” surrounding asylum seekers, refugees, and immigration, Ms Rowe said.

“I don’t think people realise what a mainstream issue this is,” she said. “People told me they were sick and tired of hearing about people [being made] homeless and walking through Europe.”

Responses to iNEED’s previous appeals have been positive, but Ms Rowe stressed the need to keep the momentum going, whether that be through making a donation or volunteering time or skills.

She said it had been rewarding to see videos of the charity’s containers being unpacked after they had arrived in refugee camps. One local primary school had sent a giant bar of Galaxy chocolate for their Syrian counterparts, she said, and it was caught on camera being delivered.

And the highest praise had come from Syrian people who had volunteered with iNEED.

Ms Rowe asked them if the aid being sent to Syria was worthwhile.

“They said [the refugees] absolutely need it,” she said. “It’s going to people who have been displaced by the fighting. They’re not on either side, and when they left their homes, they left with absolutely nothing.”

If you would like to support iNEED financially, visit www.refugeesineed.org.uk and click on donate.

To find out more about iNEED, or to donate bedding, food, clothing or toiletries, find the group on Facebook at www.facebook.com/INEED.MONMOUTH.NEWPORT or ring Julia Rowe on 07786 632672 or email refugeesineed@gmail.com

The charity has collection points in Caldicot and Monmouth.