‘Our help is appreciate­d’

We meet two inspiring women who’ve been providing essential food and compassion for refugees in Greece – and found friendship along the way

- By Katharine Wootton

Luath Glendinnin­g and Deirdre macLeod are more than 20 years apart in age and come from half a world away from each other. But it’s clear these best friends love spending time together. Having separately become increasing­ly concerned about the refugee crisis going on as a result of the war in Syria, the unlikely friends were brought together last February when they met volunteeri­ng on the Greek island of Chios with refugees who were forced to flee their homes. now Luath and Deirdre have joined forces to create a new charity, foodKInD, which provides nutritious food, as well as dignity and kindness to those who have found themselves in this desperate situation. “We both watched the refugee situation from afar and felt we wanted to help,” says Deirdre, 51, who grew up in Canada. “So we started donating clothes and sending things from home. Through that, an opportunit­y arose

to go to Chios and when I went there, Luath was the one who came to pick me up from the airport. Together we worked for the search and rescue team, helping refugees off the boats, giving them dry clothes and hydrating them.”

‘We both watched the refugee situation from afar and felt we wanted to help’ ‘Some people came to us to say it was the first time their children had eaten any fresh food in months’

But despite doing their bit, Luath and Deirdre were shocked by how close to breaking point the situation was. “We expected, perhaps naively, that refugees were being fed and their basic needs being met,” says Deirdre. “But as there are nearly 60,000 refugees living in Greece and the economy is in such bad shape, the country is struggling to cope. The army provides food to some places but it’s not consistent and often not nutritious.” And so foodKIND was born, funded initially from an online campaign and later through kind individual­s who held various events to raise money for the cause. Now Luath and Deirdre, with a collaborat­ion of organisati­ons, deliver food packages to refugees in camps or wherever they may be living – Luath recently found 70 refugees hiding out in a forest with no supplies at all. “We wanted to keep our mission simple and do it very well – and food is such a basic need,” says Luath, 29, who was born and raised in Scotland. “One of the things that struck us when we were handing out food is that 50 per cent of it is about what you’re giving, but the other 50 per cent is about how you give it. Many people were just so grateful for the compassion we gave and for making them feel normal, because these are ordinary people who’ve been used to looking after themselves and their family. So to stand in a queue asking for a small portion of food feels so undignifie­d. This is why we deliver packages to people personally. It may take more time, but there’s more value doing it that way. Some people have later come up to us to say it’s the first time their child has eaten anything fresh in months while another said it was the best thing to happen to them in three years, and it was just some bits of fruit and veg.” foodKIND’s work also brings a glimmer of hope to people who have often endured traumatic experience­s, in Syria and during the treacherou­s journey through Turkey to Greece, which usually involves risking their life on a smuggler dinghy. Almost everyone has left a loved one behind, too. One of the most touching stories the ladies came across was of a fouryear-old girl called Suzanna who, like many of the children in refugee camps, was evidently so desperate for love. “Laura had fled with her family from Kurdistan and was always desperate to be cuddled. I later learned it was just her and her father here because during the journey over the family had been separated and they couldn’t find Laura’s mother. Meanwhile, her dad was really struggling to raise her in this difficult environmen­t. It was very sad.” foodKIND offers an opportunit­y for children like Laura to have fun with the volunteers and stem the boredom that often sets in. That’s why in the shadow of Luath, Deirdre and their volunteers, there’s always an army of little helpers, delivering food and helping with the washing up. “While their parents may not be in the right mental state at the moment to give them the attention they want, our volunteers have that time and capacity,” says Luath. Although no one quite knows what the future is for these families – many pray to go home when peace comes – the foodKIND friends know they want to grow their organisati­on to help as many refugees as possible. “Often the refugees we help say they can’t understand why we’re using our time and money to do this work but our response is that we’re all human beings and we want to help. It’s not so much charity, it’s humanity.”

If you’d like to donate to foodKInD you can go to or send a cheque payable to foodKInD to: foodKInD c/o luath glendinnin­g, 6 Dishlandto­wn street, arbroath, angus DD11 1QX or visit

 ??  ?? Deirdre and Luath, who are united by their passion to help refugees
Deirdre and Luath, who are united by their passion to help refugees
 ??  ?? Above and right: foodKIND volunteers, including Deirdre and Luath, bringing hope to people left homeless by war
Above and right: foodKIND volunteers, including Deirdre and Luath, bringing hope to people left homeless by war
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 ??  ?? Preparing food to take out to people in need
Preparing food to take out to people in need

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