George, Trustee and Founder of Hands Up, gave the address at 2017’s flagship Singing for Syrians carol service on 12th December, this is what he said…
“When Hands Up visited the prosthetic limb clinic in May on the border of Syria and Turkey, we spoke with the Syrian doctors and the nurses and interviewed the patients. We met Osman who was having a new arm fitted after a shelling and another man aged about 22, who was waiting for the muscle to redevelop on his knees in order to fit two new legs. They broke our hearts really, and then put them back together again with their resilience, their humanity and their pride.
But back in London, at Christmas, it seems very easy to forget Syria.
With the money we raise tonight, as part of singing for Syrians and under the Hands Up umbrella. We are asking you to remember Syria this year.
We believe in the the projects and people we support; doctors in rural Aleppo, paying for school meals in rural Homs and covering the costs of a kindergarten, including staff salaries in Idleb. We believe that these are the Syrians, young professionals, who will one day rebuild Syria.
You have all done you bit by being here – thank you. And thank you to Victoria Prentis, without whom Singing for Syrians would not be possible, to her office –Catharine, Emily, – thank you. To the committee, the readers, the soloists. To our sponsors the Asfari Foundation and the Saïd Foundation, and St. Margaret’s Church, Westminster Abbey. I’m sorry that the thanking cannot go on for longer.
At the end of that day in the prosthetics clinic, when the work was done we sat and talked with staff: technicians and nurses, we talked about football and music, where we all went to university, they asked about our families and showed us pictures on their phones of what Syria used to be like. And they told us some sadder stories too.
What struck me about those stories though, was the sense of relief that came with telling them, that knowing someone else cared. They judged by the reaction on our faces that what they had been through wasn’t ok – perhaps the world wasn’t as indifferent as they had thought.
And that is why we should remember Syria, because the value, the emotional value of knowing someone else knows, is huge.
That can start here tonight. And the ask is simple:
Please get in touch with Hands Up – we really like it when people get in touch. Please hold your own event, we’ve held karaoke nights, busking, flashmobs, school events and there is nothing we wont sing for a quid. Please write to your MP – if they are not in the choir or sitting next to you.
But equally importantly, please use your influence as brilliant and busy people, as people who already understand, to remind Syrians that they have not been forgotten.
Address by George Butler at Singing for Syrians’ flagship carol service
12th December 2017, St Margaret’s, Westminster Abbey