Help for Refugees Portishead Produces Thank You Worldle!
A GRATEFUL group of mums has praised Portishead’s “people power” after more than £40,000-worth of warm clothing, bedding and shelters were shipped to refugees in Europe.
What started as a casual wardrobe clear-out by a few friends has snowballed into an enormous community effort involving around 70 local businesses and an estimated one in 20 people living in the town.
Last week, a cheering crowd gathered to wave off 20 pallets of aid destined for Greece where it will be distributed to desperate families fleeing Syria and other areas of conflict in the destabilised region.
Among the cargo were 1,018 pairs of shoes, 19 tents, 90 sleeping bags, 91 blankets, 20 backpacks, 11 baby carriers, 257 toiletry packs, 100 rain ponchos and 1,789 outfit packs categorised by age and size, each containing a coat or thick jumper, tops, trousers, underwear, socks, hat and gloves.
“Portishead has amazing people power,” said teacher Eloise Grobbelaar who set up the Help for Refugees Portishead Facebook group two months ago.
“Local businesses and community organisations have moved us to tears with their compassion and we reckon that over 1,000 people have contributed in some way.
“Supermum Nina Jenkins organised a big coffee morning and has been there every step of the way. And I’d like to thank the hardcore of wonderwomen who have sourced boxes and blankets, pallets and pants, and who have spent their days off sorting and packing hundreds of boxes. They have worked their thermal socks off – and their hats and gloves too!”
The town’s donations are on their way to Eric and Philippa Kempson, an English couple who have found themselves on the frontline of the crisis.
The Kempsons are ex-pats who live on the Greek island of Lesvos, just six miles across the water from Turkey.
Since February, they have seen tens of thousands of people and hundreds of bodies wash up on their shores. Many people are from Syria where civil war has killed hundreds of thousands of people and destroyed the homes and livelihoods of millions more.
As winter sets in, many families on Lesvos are sleeping in mud and becoming sick from hypothermia, hunger and disease, said Mr Kempson in a recent video diary post.
Helped by small groups of volunteers, he and his family are providing what food, bedding, shelter and medical care they can but say they are disgusted by the lack of support from European governments and aid agencies.
One of the increasing health problems in the wet, muddy terrain is trench foot.
So organisers of the Portishead appeal were moved to tears when SoleLution shoe shop owner and fellow mum Tanya Marriott added 250 pairs of brand new shoes to the donation stockpile.
Mrs Grobbelaar, who works four days a week and has two children, said: “The situation on Europe’s borders is a tangled mess and the politicians will deliberate over it for months, I’m sure. But as mothers, we don’t feel this paralysis. Should we sit and wait for all the answers while children drown and suffer on the beaches of the ‘civilised’ western world? No of course not. It’s as simple as that.”
Help for Refugees Portishead is continuing to raise money for essentials such as socks, shoes and waterproofs to send to Greece. You can donate via www.vintagechurch.co.uk Scroll down to “give” and make sure you put ‘Help for Refugees’ in the transaction purpose box. Thank you!