August was been a totally staggering month for us! We thought things would be fairly quiet, with many people being away, but we couldn’t have been more wrong. We were completely inundated with mega-donations we couldn’t refuse! Well to be honest, we had no idea what we were accepting, otherwise we might have thought out a better move-on plan to start with, but everything we do is so new we’re very much learning as we go along.
Firstly the group New Wine (which is actually a religious group rather than an alcohol drinking one) had their summer conferences just down the road from us. As they believe in actively doing good, rather than just talking it, they asked their participants to consider donating us their sleeping bags, camping mats, and tents for refugees. This was HUGELY successful, with many people donating, and we got massive hauls of high quality (and mud free!) donations on two weekends running!
Then at more or less the same time, Bath Spa Conferencing & Venue Hire offered us their end of summer season duvet and pillow sets, which were virtually new (and completely irresistible!)
However these two mega donations (the Bath Spa duvets are still arriving each week and will continue until the end of September) did rather overwhelm our storage space. This month we owe even more thanks to our wonderful hosts at Your Storage Space, Rich, Fraser and Alan, who have been amazingly patient and accommodating.
Needless to say our normal transport arrangements have not been able to cope with this summer’s mega donations! However social media can be a wonderful thing, and the network of grassroots organisations across the UK is now active and powerful, and has enabled us to pull in generosity from far and wide. We have filled cars, vans, trailers and camper vans, which have been driven by ordinary (but especially lovely) people on their way to France, either off on holiday or making trips specially to help refugees. Andy at Omega Derivatives stepped in and financially supported several trips to the Help Refugees L’Auberge warehouse, Care 4 Calais sent us a truck, and RAFT – Refugee Aid From Taunton – lent their support and their volunteers to help with the big send-out. In fact looking at the photos, it looks like we’ve sent ELEVEN loads out to Calais since my last blog post five weeks ago! Many thanks to everyone who donated, sorted, packed, loaded, and drove!
To say we have lost count of how many refugees we have – jointly – given bedding to this summer would be wrong. We couldn’t have begun to start counting – we were just too busy – but it must be easily a thousand, and we haven’t finished yet. Although there are still new refugees arriving in Calais every day, needing bedding and clothes, at least for a while some of the warehouse shelves in Calais have had a good top up.
When we can, we give our volunteers RAISE money to spend on food or other urgently needed items for refugees when they get to Calais. Special thanks go to Kate who not only made two trips to Calais for us this summer, but also managed to empty quite a few supermarket shelves on our behalf with her bulk purchasing of biscuits: a special request for the Eid celebrations.
Meanwhile Jeanette and Laurel have been working on getting our lovely caravan, Raising Hope, ready for her new life as home to some refugees in Calais. She now has new curtains and is beautifully prepared inside as well as out! We have had many wonderful donations both of money and items to go inside Hope, and so have managed to fully fund the trip to Calais, solar powered lights, a welcome hamper, and the purchase & fitting of a frontier stove to give her residents the means of heating and cooking. Many thanks to everyone who has helped with this, to Jungle Canopy for all your advice and support, and to Linden & Rob who will tow her and a big van of donated aid to Calais.
In August we also put a call out for items of furniture and equipment at the request of YMCA Mendip, to prepare a home in our area for some unaccompanied asylum seeking children. Your response was amazing, and we gathered the items (or pledges) very quickly. There have been some delays with finalising things as some unexpected repairs have been needed to the house, but all is progressing well and they are settling into life in the UK. If you would like to know about other opportunities to help unaccompanied asylum seeking children in this area, please see this post which has more information.
In terms of raising awareness, apart from our very active facebook presence and local networking, I also did a talk to the Frome Selwood Rotary Club in August with Paddy from Childrens World, and we look forward to finding opportunities to work with them.
It seems amazing that we have come so far, and done so much in just one year since Justine Corrie first asked her friends for donations to fill her car boot! As one volunteer said to me this summer: we’ve really upped our game now, and I think she’s right.
Looking forward, this month we will be continuing to collect your donations of aid to send to refugees in Calais and beyond. The full details of our donation drop dates & places, and what we are collecting are here.
We also have a couple of fundraising events coming shortly which we would love you to support:
- Ruth is organising a Mega Sale of designer & vintage clothes, both pre-loved and new, plus household bric-a-brac, books and toys at the Sun Street Chapel in Frome on 2nd October from 11.00 – 15.00.
- Linden is organising a music gig Raising the Roof! on the evening of 22nd October. This will feature The Back Wood Redeemers (in association with OutWest Festivals), The Inbredz, DJ “Mrs P” and Klumpox Visuals. Age 18+ Tickets (£10) available from Brown Paper Tickets.
Thank you so much, again, to all our volunteers, donors, and supporters! We’ve had an amazing summer, and it wouldn’t have been possible without you!