Charity boss' sadness of aid required for Yemen homeland

A charity chief executive from Black Country has spoken of his sadness that aid needs to be given to his homeland of Yemen.

SANDWELL COPYRIGHT EXPRESS&STAR TIM THURSFIELD 26/03/21.Saleh Saeed, chief executive of Disasters Emergency Committee, which is a charity that aims to support health workers and improve the living conditions of refugees in regions including Yemen, Syria, Somalia, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Afghanistan. He is from West Bromwich, and has lived there since he was 5, originally from Yemen. He won an OBE for setting up the Yemeni Community Association in West Brom...
SANDWELL COPYRIGHT EXPRESS&STAR TIM THURSFIELD 26/03/21.Saleh Saeed, chief executive of Disasters Emergency Committee, which is a charity that aims to support health workers and improve the living conditions of refugees in regions including Yemen, Syria, Somalia, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Afghanistan. He is from West Bromwich, and has lived there since he was 5, originally from Yemen. He won an OBE for setting up the Yemeni Community Association in West Brom...

Saleh Saeed works for the Disaster Emergency Committee [DEC], an umbrella organisation of charities that helps disadvantaged people at home and abroad.

Among the services the DEC provides is to improve the living conditions of refugees in regions including Yemen, Syria, Somalia, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Afghanistan.

Mr Saeed, aged 54, moved with his family to West Bromwich, aged four. They came from British Aden, a former British colony in the south of Yemen, which existed from 1937 to 1963.

There has been an ongoing civil war in Yemen since 2014.

He said: "A lot of folk were invited over to work in the Black Country, in particular, because in the 60s and 70s, there was lots of work at the time, and not enough workers.

"My dad came in like 1959, way before the family did, and then we joined him 1972 to settle.

"I do have memories of Yemen, I travelled frequently, every few years, I would visit with mom and dad, and attend festivals or weddings, or just go on holiday there.

"I remember some happy memories there. It is a beautiful country, in terms of the beaches and mountain views, and the culture, and everything else.

"But sadly, over the last few years, because of the war, a lot of it has been destroyed.

"It is a bit hard knowing the work I do, not only am I responding, and helping respond to countries like Syria and South Sudan, but also my ancestral home of Yemen."

Growing up in West Bromwich, Mr Saeed became an West Bromwich Albion supporter.

He was also taught at Sandwell College and the University of Wolverhampton. He has much love and appreciation for his British home town of West Bromwich.

"Fifty years of my life has been in Britain," he said. "First and foremost, I consider myself to be British and Yemeni, and proud of it.

"My ancestral home, my heritage, is from Yemen, but my life has been in Britain. I am a Black Country lad and a West Brom fan as well."

Saleh Saeed, chief executive of Disasters Emergency Committee

He added: "West Bromwich Albion has been fantastic in the past, they have, on occasions, supported the DEC by doing fundraising in the stands, obviously when crowds were allowed. They have been good supporters."

Mr Saeed remembers hard times growing up in West Bromwich, due to factors such as high unemployment rates.

But he also been grateful to meet people from a range of diverse backgrounds in the town.

He said: "We have built up a good network of communities of friends from all backgrounds. It is fantastic that West Bromwich is so diverse, you can meet people from all over the world.

"That has been really good to be able to fit in and to get to know different kinds of culture. But I will be honest, it hasn't been easy.

"Like any other person growing up in West Bromwich, the town has had its hard times, particularly in the 80s and 90s, with employment and with various things.

"That is not just me, but everybody that lives in West Bromwich."

Mr Saeed has made his own mark on the town by launching the Yemeni Community Association at Greets Green Access Centre, in West Bromwich.

That group won the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service in 2019.

Mr Saeed is no stranger to royalty. He recently spoke with the Duke of Cambridge over the phone, after the DEC put out an appeal for funding.

Prince William William spoke with three Syrian aid workers, supported by the DEC's Coronavirus Appeal, about how donations from Britain are being used to help millions of vulnerable people.

Before introducing the aid workers to William, Mr Saeed said he was calling from "sunny West Bromwich just north of Birmingham", to which William - an Aston Villa fan - joked: "I know it well."

Mr Saeed is no stranger to royal accolades, either. In 2013, he won the Order of the British Empire for services to humanitarian work.

During lockdown, he has been working from home, instead of his charity's base in London.

For more information about the DEC, visit www.dec.org.uk.

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