Saleyha Ahsan

The People's Convoy - Day One the Launch

Posted by Saleyha Ahsan on 18 December 2016 | 67 Comments

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So we can finally accept that this is real. The People's Convoy has come together and we have had the big launch. Pretty amazing send off with a mass of media. But how did it start?

I keep remembering that drive home from a late A&E shift and I got a call, just as I was crossing the Menai Bridge. I shouted into the hands free and it was Rola. I knew what it would be about. We both were on the same wavelength and have been since we first met back in 2012. It was about 'doing something'. Last time we joined forces we worked together to make possible a BBC Panorama - Saving Syria's Children, Ian Pannell and Darren Conway.

Now we were coming together to find that 'something'. And Rola had it. In response to the utter destruction of healthcare within Syria in areas outside of government control, it was time to mobilise and build a  children’s hospital inside Syria. And what's more it had to be done now, even before Christmas which was at that time just 2 weeks away.

Don't ask me how it happened other than it was a mass mobilisation of many people and organisations, coming together to make that idea of building a much needed children's hospital a reality.

It didn't help that this emergency project planning was coinciding with my busiest time at work - a week of long shifts finishing at midnight followed by four night shifts. Instead of sleeping I was convoy planning.

I never knew that getting hold of a truck could be so hard. All I wanted was a truck. I've had a two week crash course in haulage and what is required to haul that truck through Turkey. It was an education. When we found the truck - thanks to the haulers Anglo-Turkish coming on board - we knew this was going to happen. The idea became reality.

Taking the medical supplies needed to equip a children’s hospital across Europe by road - was a demonstration of solidarity from across Europe with the Syrian doctors inside East Aleppo working under the harshest and most dangerous of situations.

Fast forward to today - 17 Dec 2016 - and it's launch time. The plan was to set off from outside the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital and it was beyond what I had imagined. The truck arrived and it was huge - 45 foot trailer draped in The People's Convoy banner. What a sight. The cameras were everywhere and even actors from Call the Midwife came to see us off.

I started the day with a twirl of interviews in the BBC - starting with R4 Today, BBC Breakfast television, 5 Live and finally BBC World on television. Even friends in Israel had seen the interviews and were contacting me to tell me that the message was getting through. The prize for the weirdest moment came as we drove along the M20 and heard BBC Radio 2 news covering our story with an interview with me. They talked about the People’s Convoy as the People’s Convoy tuned in on the move. 

I write this in a Brussels hotel - we have safely arrived at our destination for day one. The ferry was boarded with a special nod from Kent police who offered an escort and priority boarding. They wished us well and that we stay safe. 

It's time for bed - but before I go I have to say that there's just something pretty extraordinary about today and what's happening. The People's Convoy has been fuelled and driven by People power - the most effective energy source.The P

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