YES in The Sunday Times

YES was in The Sunday Times this week in an article written about the work Anne and the charity have done, by Christina Lamb.

You can read the article here:

On an average day, Anne Norona does blood tests and checks leg ulcers in the GP’s practice in Penzance where she is a nurse.

Last month she was in Iraq buying goats for Yazidis who have returned home to find everything in ruins. The previous day she had been visiting children with “fish scale”, a skin disease. She massaged them gently with almond oil. Then she stopped by a tent and delivered a mattress to a refugee who had hurt her back fleeing Isis.

Her trips — and the goats — are largely funded by Botox injections she gives as a sideline in Britain, as well as raising funds among friends.

“Helping the Yazidis has taken over my life,” admits the Cornish nurse, who already balances a full-time job in Morrab Surgery, Penzance, with being a single parent of a teenage boy.

Recently she opened the first antenatal clinic in Sinjar, northern Iraq, since Isis struck there four years ago, killing and capturing Yazidis and driving out most of the 450,000 inhabitants.

Yet Norona, 54, has no organisation: her only staff are Facebook friends and her main asset her astonishing resourcefulness, which got her through checkpoints and into meetings with the militia chiefs who control the area.

“Where are the big agencies, the Oxfams and Save the Childrens?” she asks. “The fact that a nurse from Penzance is having to do this is outrageous.”

Her campaign began in autumn 2015, when she was so disturbed by pictures of refugees streaming into Europe, she felt she must do something. “Cornwall is very big on aid and lots of people were collecting clothes to send, but that didn’t seem enough,” she said. “I think if you have a skill, you should use it.” Apart from medical skills, “I am really good at Facebook, so I could quickly see who was effective.”

Norona first came into contact with the Yazidis in 2016. She was part of ResCo International, a network of volunteers, medics and translators that tackles anything from medical emergencies to kidnaps.

One night, she was at home when her phone rang. It was a Yazidi activist telling her that 14 Yazidis were trapped in a forest in Macedonia by smugglers threatening to kill them unless they handed over all their money. “Immediately I got onto Facebook,” she said. “We tracked the location of the Yazidis — they were in Gevgelija in the middle of nowhere — and called the Macedonian police, who did nothing.”

Her contact called again, saying the people were screaming for help and had children. Norona estimates more than 1,000 Facebook messages were sent that day. “Finally we found a local volunteer in Macedonia to go to the police and insist they do something, and around 10pm they were rescued.”

On any given day she might have an escaped sex slave in Iraq needing money for an emergency caesarean or a mine victim needing a new leg. Last year she helped rescue Hanzada, 7, who was being kept as a slave by an Isis fighter. “I got a Facebook message from a student telling me the girl had been captured aged five, along with 10 of her family. Her father had been shot and only a brother returned. There was a chance to rescue her — but they needed $12,000.”

Again she turned to Facebook. “It was a huge panic as there are only three to five days before the child is resold to the slave market or on the dark web to someone in Turkey or Saudi Arabia and lost for ever.”

Hanzada was rescued, her hands swollen from beating. Her 12-year-old sister was less fortunate. “We couldn’t get to her in time,” frets Norona. “I can never forget the sound of her voice on a voice-clip pleading to be rescued.”

Norona’s modest salary as an NHS nurse does not go far, hence her Botox service. She has now set up the Yezidi Emergency Support group.

“My son thinks I’m strange, but even from far-off Penzance through social media we can do so much.”


Article written by @christinalamb for The Sunday Times.


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