Suitcase full of toys for refugees

Peter Burn has visited more than a dozen countries over five continents in the last six years.

By The Newsroom
Thursday, 17 January, 2019, 14:51
Peter Burn hands out a toy - one of dozens donated by people from the Morpeth area - to a child at the refugee camp.

And on his latest travels, the 24-year-old who grew up on the family farm at West Benridge, Morpeth, took a suitcase full of toys that he handed out to children at the Arbat Syrian refugee camp in northern Iraq.

He posted on social media to ask for toy donations and was delighted with the ‘fantastic response’ – people were able to drop off items at a pub in Morpeth town centre.

Peter Burn pictured during his motorbike tour in a region of Pakistan last summer.

At the moment, he works at West Benridge and local farms around the area doing seasonal work during key periods for farming and travels in-between these months.

He went to Iraq in November and his latest trip also includes Peru, Bolivia and Colombia. He will return to the UK early next month for the start of lambing season.

Peter said: “Someone I know of through the blogging sphere has been to the Arbat camp and did a blog about it, and I thought it would be good to go myself.

“I then had the idea of asking for toy donations to fill a big suitcase that I could take with me. I posted something on the Morpeth Matters Facebook page and the response was fantastic.

Children at the Arbat refugee camp.

“I’m grateful to the Black Bull in Morpeth for agreeing to be the place where people could drop off their donations.

“I didn’t have a uniform on and the people in the camp are not used to tourists, so once they realised why I was there, they were very friendly and welcoming.

“When the children saw that I was handing out toys from a suitcase, they quickly came over. It was amazing to see their smiles.

“One of the people I met was a 15-year-old whose family had been murdered, but he was still happy to chat with me. He and others are getting on with things as best they can.”

Children at the Arbat refugee camp.

He spent four hours at the refugee camp, which has schools, a hospital and other facilities.

It was established by a United Nations programme and Peter said it is generally clean and in a good condition, adding that it was “nice to see for myself how foreign aid has been spent, including from the UK”.

He has previously visited Egypt, the historic Palestine area – including what is now Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip – and Jordan in the region known as the Middle East.

One of the ‘spectacular memories’ from his time in Iraq is his visit to Amedi, an ancient town perched atop a plateau that some refer to as the city in the sky.

Peter Burn at the camp entrance.

Local folklore claims that this area is where the Biblical Magi (Three Wise Men) observed the star in the sky, prompting their famous pilgrimage to Bethlehem.

Peter added: “During my travels in northern Iraq, I met a group of people about my age.

“They invited me to a house and cooked me a meal, and also asked me questions about what I knew and thought about Iraq.

“The Middle East does have problems, but it’s very misunderstood. There are many beautiful and fascinating places and I’m planning to return to the region some more times.

“There is a military presence and as long as you are sensible, you are unlikely to get caught up in anything dangerous.

“I feel like there is nothing better than going off the beaten track and discovering remote places that have had very little written about them.”

A section of the Arbat refugee camp.

He started his travels at the age of 18 by backpacking across the US.

Peter then spent a year in Australia and a year in New Zealand, which included farming work, and was also a tour guide on the Indonesian island of Bali.

Over the last three years, he has operated on the basis of about three months of work at West Benridge and other farms in the area and three months travelling abroad.

He has also visited Morocco and did a motorbike tour in a region of Pakistan last summer.