Newnham man helping to make a difference to Syrian refugees

Robert Trigwell and some of the youngsters he met in Libya.
Robert Trigwell and some of the youngsters he met in Libya.

We have all heard of the crisis in Syria and the numbers of refugees making their way to neighbouring countries.

But few will know that a 26-year-old from Newnham is helping in refugee camps to make sure people get what they need.

The Za'atari camp in Jordan for Syrian refugees

The Za'atari camp in Jordan for Syrian refugees

Rob Trigwell, who went to Danetre School, now works for a French NGO called ACTED and has been in camps across northern Jordan and Iraq, including the Za’atari Camp in Jordan currently hosting over 100,000 Syrian refugees that have fled the crisis. He previously worked in Libya after the fall of Gaddafi.

Mr Trigwell said: “I went to Jordan in November 2012, and around March last year I went to Za’atari – the second largest refugee camp in the world. In May 2012 there were 60,000 people, by April 2013 it was 120,000. There was a period where 1,500 people a day were arriving. For scale, the camp’s population is about three or four times the size of Daventry.

“Our team works to gather information on the camp and the people. The camp is divided into 12 districts, but the population isn’t even.

“The other NGOs need to know where people are and what they need, so they come to us.

“I design an app for a smartphone that can gather the information, and then we pay a team of refugees to go through the camp with them.

“We can visit 15,000 households in six days and survey everyone, or we can do a sample if it’s appropriate.

“All the data is automatically geotagged with co-ordinates, so we can map it, and it’s uploaded without transcription errors.

“It means we know what people need, so the charities and NGOs know if they have enough money or not, and if appeals need to be launched for more donations.

“We know the numbers of people in the camp, so we know exactly how many gas cookers, or litres of water, or housing units are needed and in which districts.

“That means money is spent more efficiently and there’s less waste.”

Mr Trigwell went back out to the region on February 16 where he is now working in a regional role across camps in Jordan and the Kurdish region of northern Iraq, potentially also taking on camps in Lebanon and Turkey in future.