By Edna Branthwaite
Joan Capp is a slim silver-haired 79 years old with immense courage, practical ability and organisational skills that she has put to good use over the years. Wherever tragedy has struck or countries have been torn apart by war Joan and her colleagues from Bootle Refugee Aid Cumbria (BRACUK) have raised money and obtained necessary items in order to relieve the suffering of those involved.
BRACUK, registered as a charity in the 1990’s, has provided much needed help for countries all over the world such as Haiti after the earthquake. Joan tells the story of one little girl who was trapped under the rubble. She wrote notes of everything that happened to her while trapped but, unfortunately, did not survive. Help was provided after the tsunami, in the war-torn countries of Eastern Europe, Bosnia, Croatia and Chechnya as well as in Africa and most recently in Pakistan. Joan delivers the aid personally to whichever area is affected and brooks no argument from officials. In Pakistan a new rule had been imposed which stated that all aid had to be handed to the army. Joan said there would be no release to the army and thanks to her network of contacts the aid was finally released to where it was needed.
Aid of every description has been provided to the needy: medical equipment, sewing machines so that women had a source of income, schools fitted out and occasionally sums of money. The ongoing project at the moment is to build a school near Islamabad and 80,000 bricks at 5p per brick will be needed to build it. So far the boundary wall has been completed.
Joan paid tribute to the tireless work of her colleagues in BRACUK, the generosity of the people, businesses, schools and organisations of Cumbria as well as the drivers of the transport trucks who went wherever they were asked despite the danger. And there has been danger: one worker was killed in a truck while delivering aid. When I asked her if she was ever frightened she said she was more afraid of crossing water than war!
Joan Capp richly deserves the MBE she was awarded for her services to charity and will collect it from the Queen at Buckingham Palace later in the year.
Anyone who would like to make a donation should send a cheque to Joan at Bootle Refugee Aid Cumbria UK, Hycemoorside House, Bootle Station, Millom, Cumbria LA19 5XG