Click below to listen to interview with Erica Henley, Founder and Chairwoman of Operation Hope Australia with SBS Kurdish (in english)
“I am a very ordinary woman who has been fortunate enough to be able to participate in some extraordinary projects. I live in Newcastle, I am married and have two adult sons.”
Mayada Kordy Khalil
Sunday, May 12, 2019 – 15:33
11 min 13 sec
Erica Henley is an advocate for human rights, especially for those who have been internally displaced within their homeland or have had to flee their war torn country as asylum seekers or refugees.
She continually feels the call to help those who have experienced trauma and tragedy through war and genocide.
(Shopping at the markets at the camp to buy fabric for the women’s sewing groups)
“I love that I am in a position where I can actually help and make a small difference in the lives of these people who have suffered extreme trauma and tragedy.”
Ms Henley is a humanitarian volunteer – which means her volunteering work has included assisting teaching english in the camp schools, administration, fundraising and organising groups of volunteers.
(40ft shipping container sailed from Sydney in early December 2018)
Since 2016 she’s volunteered in Greece and Iraq in the camps for refugees and internally displaced people.
“The relationships and friendships that are built are just beautiful,” Ms. Henley told SBS Kurdish.
Ms. Henley is the founder and chairwoman of a not for profit organisation called Operation Hope Australia Ltd which was successfully registered in NSW in 2018 as a charity and a benevolent institution.
(Humanitarian volunteer teaching English in Kurdistan, Northern Iraq 2018)
“I reflect on what we have been able to achieve in the last three years as a tiny little charity, we are now registered and raised close to $100,000 in three years,” said Ms. Henley.
In March this year Erica Henley and her husband travelled to Kurdistan Region, Iraq to gain release of their 40ft shipping container filled with aid, out of customs in Kurdistan, transported into a camp then unpacked ready for distribution of the medical equipment to 12 hospitals in Syria and Kurdistan Region and aid to displaced people and refugees in seven camps in the Duhok province.
(Kim Henley sorting some of the medical equipment)
“I have led small teams of Australian volunteers to Greece in 2016, and Kurdistan Region, Iraq in 2017 & 2018. It is hard to try and imagine and come to terms with what these people have suffered,” Ms Henley said.
The team from Joint Help for Kurdistan has started distributing the humanitarian aid from the shipping container. The arrival of the container and its release for distribution coincided with the Kurdish New Year celebration of Newroz. Packages of toys, clothes and gifts were distributed to the most needy families so the parents would be able to give them to their children at Newroz.
Distribution to the needy at Baged Kandal Camps 1 & 2 continued today as more packs prepared by the Joint Help for Kurdistan crew were distributed. Thanks to Salih, Amina H Juno, Ahmed, Hamo, Aido, Saado, Heat Sdfa, Dr. Ahmed, Majid and Jalal.
It has been a huge job in preparing, cataloging, packing, weighing, shipping, getting it though the border, then customs clearance, but now to see the hard work going to those it was intended to help makes all the stress worthwhile.
And yes – the shipping did go over budget due to the delays at the border and at customs, so if you can help us cover some of the US$3,000 in extra costs, our projects for 2019 can start immediately.
11 tonnes of equipment and aid has been unpacked from the shipping container and the distribution process has started. Approximately 12 hospitals in Kurdistan and Syria including Maternity hospitals, Dental clinics, Blood Banks, Emergency departments, Paediatric emergency, the Joint Help for Kurdistan medical clinic at Baged Kandala 2 camp and a Burns & Plastic Hospital will receive the medical equipment.
Refugees and Internally Displaced People from at least 7 camps in Kurdistan and Syria will be the recipients of the aid. Priority will be given to orphans, widows, women and children recently released from ISIS and the poorest families (not having any money to even pay the school fees to help educate their children). You can read about the distribution and view a couple of videos at the most recent blog post here.
2,199 x “Days for Girls” hygiene kits have been given to the NGO “The Lotus Flower”. Last year they ran two successful workshops in Rwanga refugee camp. All the kits will be distributed through womens health workshops at Rwanga camp and Essyan camps for internally displaced people and the Domiz camp for Syrian refugees.
Despite our best efforts to reduce the storage costs at the privately run customs facility and an appeal to the Assistant Governor for Duhok province, the extra fees, due to delayed processing incurred during the import of the container, amount to US$2,090 at customs and US$3,495 to the Turkish transport company.
Fortunately we had budgeted for some extra fees but have a shortfall of $A2939. We would really like to complete the shipping project without debt so that we can proceed to fund other projects for the refugees and IDPs in Kurdistan.
Could you help us with a donation?
via internet banking or personally at a Westpac Bank in Australia Account Name: Operation Hope Australia Ltd BSB: 034 087 Account Number: 045 791 SWIFT/IBAN Code: WPACAU2S or
It has taken a long 13 months. Starting with a generous donation of money, then the offer of a steriliser and neo-natal resuscitation unit from Narribri hospital, in New South Wales, which fitted into a 6×4 trailer, the project has grown to encompass over 9 tonnes of medical equipment and humanitarian aid, and a 40 ft shipping container.
The last month has been the longest. Shipping began with transfer of the container to Port Botany in Sydney from the warehouse in Newcastle, then the generous donation of the shipping cost took it to Mersin, in Turkey. Overland transport to the Kurdish Iraq border where it stopped for 3 weeks waiting for clearance to enter Iraq. Then to a customs warehouse for inspection of the contents, so the container was emptied, and more paperwork was prepared for customs clearance. Several errors meant this had to be repeated twice, with delays each time. And still, the container was not released.
We arrived here 3 days ago to be told there were not 6 Infant Incubators, but 9 of them, so three were not listed. On the second visit to the customs centre we found this was NOT the case, but the problem was with 3 incorrect serial numbers on the incubators … then the first one we inspected had the correct serial number !! The next 2 were wrong – my mistake: I remember writing them down one night when they were in the garage without my glasses. Lesson: wear you glasses!
We have had immense assistance from a range of people to help solve the import problems. Majeed Shukrey and Alan Diyar has been totally committed to getting the container through. Alan has shuttled us around Duhok, translated at customs and took us to Erbil to have a 5 minute meeting with the head of the Kurdistan Medical Control Agency to fix the problem with the serial numbers. The Turkish truck driver has been away from his family for nearly 5 weeks.
It was released from customs on Sunday 3 March at 5pm and an hour later it arrived at Bajed Kandala Camp 2 and we could finally record it arriving as night fell.
Kim Henley and I are counting down the sleeps until we fly out from Sydney to Erbil, Kurdistan in Northern Iraq…..3 1 more sleeps!
Although we will be based in the city of Duhok, we will travel each day to Bajed Kandala 2 camp (located 20kms east of the Syrian border) and work with NGO Joint Help for Kurdistan. We will be unpacking the 40ft shipping container and helping with distribution of the contents to hospitals in Kurdistan and the families in Bajed Kandala 2 camp.
Attached are some photos of the contents of the 40 ft shipping container – currently sitting in a customs warehouse near Duhok…….we are hoping that these contents will be repacked into the shipping container and be transported into the camp in the next day or two.
Special thanks to Majeed Shukrey and Alan Diyar, in Kurdistan, who are helping us with the shipping container project – we could not do succeed without your help.
I had the most delightful time in Sydney this afternoon….meeting with the President of the Kurdish Lobby of Australia…Mr Eziz Bawermend. The Lobby has been registered since 2015 and its boasts international as well as national membership.
We are very appreciative of their recent donation which has gone towards the purchase of an oxygen concentrator, which will be taken in my luggage and delivered to Sinjar hospital. Sinjar hospital is still lying in ruins – 90% devastated during the invasion of Daesh in 2014. This will be the only oxygen concentrator in the hospital and will be used regularly to help save lives of patients.
A recently elected board member is well known human rights and refugee advocate Julian William Kennedy BurnsideAOQC .Julian Burnside is walking the walk. He does his human rights work pro bono. He and his wife have a spare room in their house. Over the years they regularly welcomed asylum seekers to live with them. Afghanis and other nationals.
Another board member is Rev Bill Crews, dearly loved and respected for his years of work with the community at the Wayside Chapel in Kings Cross. Rev Crews is also the founder of The Exodus Foundation – feeding the hungry and operating a multipurpose Health and Outreach centre. In 2015 Rev Crews was announced as the recipient of the 2015 New South Wales Human Rights Award.