Residents rally round to help refugees

Emma and Richard Walker who are taking aid to refugees in Calais. (s)
Emma and Richard Walker who are taking aid to refugees in Calais. (s)

People across the borough concerned about the plight of refugees in Calais are joining together to help send aid.

Husband and wife Emma and Richard Walker, of Bawdlands, Clitheroe, are travelling to Calais next month to take vital supplies to refugees camped there.

“I have been really challenged by the situation and compelled to do something,” said primary school teacher Emma.

“I can’t change things or influence politicians on a large scale, but this isn’t about that. I want to see this situation with my own eyes.”

Emma, who is heavily involved with Clitheroe’s The Grand and jointly runs the Backstage Pass performing arts project for children and teenagers, hopes to document the journey in order to give people more of an insight into the human beings that are there.

Together with Richard, who is a professional musician and works on the Be My Band Project at The Grand, Emma has posted a list of items that are needed on her Clitheroe to Calais Facebook page. They range from clothing, shoes, shelter and living equipment, toiletries, non-perishable food and much more.

St James CE Church in Clitheroe has agreed to be a drop off point and anyone who would like to donate items can do so at the church office between 1 and 4 pm Monday to Friday.

The couple, who are using their own money to pay for the ferry over to Calais, have had more than £1,500 donated to their cause via: http://gogetfunding.com/clitheroe-to-calais-people-love-people/

“We have had the use of a van donated, so all the money raised will go to buy supplies for wherever they’re needed most,” Emma explained.

“As I am also aware we have people in need in this country, on our doorsteps, a percentage of what we get donated and the money we raise will go to the foodbank in Clitheroe and towards homeless charity Shelter’s work in Manchester.”

The couple are also travelling over to Calais this Saturday, September 19th, to take part in the Solidarity Day of Action.

Former Clitheroe Royal Grammar School pupil Ben Kenyon, (29), of Whalley, is also taking the lead to get vital supplies to the refugees in Calais.

The father-of-one and former journalist for the Clitheroe Advertiser’s sister paper the Burnley Express, is supporting the East Lancs Refugee Solidarity Air Collection, which was started alongside Blackburn girl Ash Mowbray, who worked at Workhouse Marketing in Ribchester.

“We never knew each other before hand, but we got talking online about the growing refugee crisis in Europe,” Ben explained. “What propelled it into action was seeing the heart-breaking image of that little boy’s lifeless body face down on a beach.

“As a new father you can’t help but think of your old children and what this poor child must have gone through as he drowned in the Mediterranean and indeed what thousands more have suffered making this dangerous crossing away from the horrors of ISIS, President Assad’s regime and the war that has torn Syria apart.”

“One fact that really hit home,” he added,”was that more than half the four million-plus refugees who have fled Syria are children (under 18s).

“We both felt we could no longer just sit by, complain about the situation and not offer some kind of help. These refugees are doctors, nurses, teachers and football coaches – people just like us that need our help.”

Drop off points for aid have been set up with Michelle at the Rose and Crown pub, Castle Street, Clitheroe. Donations were taken in there on Tuesday evening. There is also a collection in Blackburn town centre on Saturday September 19th with similar events being planned at Ewood Park to collect aid to help people at the Calais camps and to support a group shipping aid to Greece and Syria itself.

“The response we have had from most people has been incredible,” said Ben. “It has been inspiring to see thousands of ordinary British people organising across the country to help this emergency in any way they can – including the kind-hearted people of East Lancashire.

“We also want to speak to local schools who may be interested in doing a winter/Christmas shoe box appeal for refugees in Syria itself which has over seven million internal refugees.”

For more details about the appeal visit: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1626570517600767/?fref=ts

Meanwhile, a Ribble Valley mum is organising a collection of aid for Syrian refugees.

Mother-of-two Rachel Isherwood, 34, was so moved by recent pictures of the refugees’ plight that she decided to set up a collection of clothes and food.

Rachel, who with her husband, Martin, runs the Home Improvement Studio, in Read, said: “When you see pictures of children suffering you really want to help and I thought this collection was something I could do.”

Donations can left at the Home Improvement Studio and Pendle Hill Properties at their showrooms in Whalley Road, Read, from where they will be sorted before being sent out to the refugee camps in Syria by the charity Syria Relief.

Rachel and her team are looking for donations of shoes - particularly men’s shoes and trainers - jeans, tracksuits, T-shirts, trousers, underwear, mens’ jackets, belts and socks, and any types of tinned food.

The Home Improvement Studio can be contacted on 01282 680332 or at www.homeimprovementstudio.co.uk

Emma and Richard Walker who are taking aid to refugees in Calais. (s)