OXFAM Scotland today marks its 50th anniversary.It is undoubtedly a significant milestone for us as an organisation.
But this anniversary belongs as much to the generosity of people in Scotland as it does to Oxfam. Our first Scottish office opened in Glasgow in 1963.
The handful of dedicated volunteers who staffed it could never have known they were laying the foundations of a charity which would go on to change so many lives for over half a century.
The organisation that became Oxfam GB launched in Oxford in 1942. Two decades later, a group called Glasgow and Clydeside Freedom from Hunger raised £108,000 for an Oxfam farming project in India. This Scottish-funded project, based in Anand, became the largest co-operative dairy in the world, supporting the villagers through new schools, hospitals and family planning centres. The fundraisers' success led them to establish a permanent Scottish base for Oxfam.
Over the years this evolved into a charity which provides life-saving aid and challenges the unjust systems that keep people in poverty at home and abroad. While today is a special date for all those associated with Oxfam Scotland, for those living in grinding poverty it will simply be another day of fear, hardship and hopelessness.
That's why we're using our anniversary to focus on the people of Syria. Recent events have underscored the terrible suffering endured by the Syrian people, and reinforced the need to urgently find a political solution.
The conflict is now in its third year and more than 100,000 people have been killed. Two million Syrians, half of them children, have been forced to flee the country. Inside Syria, where the violence has destroyed homes, schools and hospitals, some 6.8 million people are in need of help.
Countries neighbouring Syria have done their best to help, keeping their borders open to refugees and supporting them where they can. In Lebanon, for example, Syrians now make up a quarter of the population; imagine if Scotland faced that kind of influx in such a short period.
The refugee numbers in the region are now so high that help to provide even basics like shelter, food and clean water is urgently needed.
Oxfam is working in Syria, Lebanon and Jordan to meet such needs but we are also calling for a ceasefire and a peaceful, political solution to the crisis.
Alongside this, we are fundraising so we can continue to help. The Syrian crisis is just the latest in a long-line of humanitarian emergencies - big and small - which Oxfam has responded to over the last 50 years. From large scale disasters like the Asian Tsunami to our long-term development work with small-holder farmers, we simply could not have done it without the support of people in Scotland.
That support has sent children to school and provided textbooks, built wells and dug vegetable plots, trained nurses and saved lives in childbirth. The nature of development and aid may have changed massively over the past five decades but the loyalty of our supporters has remained constant.
Today is a welcome opportunity to thank the many people who have supported Oxfam Scotland over the last 50 years, from those who have given generously to our emergency appeals or held fundraisers, to those who have given time to join protests, sign petitions and email politicians.
We are particularly grateful to the 1000 volunteers in our 51 shops who are the lifeblood of our work and members of the public who have donated to, and bought from, our branches across Scotland. From our oldest volunteer, who is in her nineties, to the primary school pupils who give their pocket money to help children in some of the world's poorest countries, every supporter strengthens us. When the Scots who founded this organisation read about people who were suffering and voiceless, they chose not to turn the page but to get involved. Fifty years on, we're committed to continuing their vital work. We know people in Scotland are, too.
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