A team of workers have returned to Wearside from a mission to help people fleeing war as they sought sanctuary the Syrian border.
Refugee Aid Network (RAN) sent four men to Almayra in Jordan to help distribute £10,000 in aid after it was raised in the North East, with more than half of that collected in Sunderland and South Tyneside.
The group helped cover medical costs, pay rent for widows facing eviction and school fees for their children, offered essential toiletries, handed out food packages and gifted toys and sweets to youngsters.
Their expedition was made in partnership with Middlesbrough charity One Ummah and they hope their work will pave the way for further visits, sending out more aid and strengthening the links made during their trip.
The team brought together Wearsiders Monir Ahmed, 24, a community co-ordinator based at Sunderland International Bangladesh Centre in Hendon, and call centre worker Taz Maqsood, 37, along with Shah Lalon Amin, 36, a business development worker from South Shields and chairman of RAN, and Monju Meha, 29, from Newcastle.
They were helped by a journalist along with a former refugee who now helps other, with the pair acting as their guides.
This was all down to the people of Sunderland and the North East and they should be proud, because we did it for them.Monir Ahmed
They were only allowed to visit the camps during daylight and could hear gun and mortar fire over the border 9k away during the night.
Monir said: “People there have had such a hard time, some have a had a leg amputated and are going through so much pain, some cannot pay their hospital bills or pay for the basics children.
“We just wish we could have got near to the border, but we had to be very careful. We could hear the gunshots and the shellings.
“In the first camp we came across kids and they saw us with our phones and they knew about selfies and Snapchat and we realised these children came from good homes and then you cam empathise with what they’ve come from and realise how inhumane it is.
“They need food, hygiene packs, especially the ladies, and a lot of them are quite shy about asking for stuff.
“We were putting updates on Facebook and got a lot of support from Sunderland.
“This was all down to the people of Sunderland and the North East and they should be proud, because we did it for them.
“We weren’t there to help Muslims, we didn’t even ask what religion people were, it all people who needed help.”
Taz added: “What got me was the kids. “We went in to give them toys and I just broke down and had to stop because it was heartbreaking.
“It’s opened our eyes.
“I’ve talked to people at work about it and compared to Sunderland, it’s a world away.”
Syed Khalid Miah, chairman of the centre, added: “I’m very proud of Monir and his colleagues.
“They have our full support.”
Further fundraising efforts are in the pipeline to support the camps.
More details can be found via the RAN Facebook page.