Article by Hazel Murray
West Cornwall folk are responding to the refugee crisis – and they’re taking social media by storm. With the refugee crisis currently affecting regions across Europe and dominating media headlines, local people have felt compelled to offer their help in any way they can. Some have given donations, some have started campaigns, and others have even offered their homes as temporary accommodation to the refugees.
Sarah Judd, from Sennen, collaborated with her friends Holly Rorke and Anna De Vere to create a Facebook group, dubbed ‘West Penwith – Help for Refugees’, which in just a few weeks has spiralled to more than 2,500 members. She said: “It’s difficult to tell but I think a lot of people had the same emotional response as us. “It’s a heart-breaking situation.”
The group is not just for one organisation; Sarah hopes it will become a platform for others who wish to help. “That was the intention”, she said, “to fundraise and to provide a platform for all these people with the same view as us to talk. None of us set out to be leading the group.” With its 2,500-plus members, numerous events are now coming together to fundraise and provide ideas to aid the appeal, including a community cafe, an auction and even a re-formation of Penzance’s popular band Pond Life, who are coming back one last time to do a fundraising gig at the Ritz Penzance.
“I think it’s a humane response to a humanitarian crisis,” said Sarah. “I don’t believe in invisible borders, and I have friends from all over the world. “The hospitality extended to us in other countries should be reciprocated. “People who need a helping hand should be given a helping hand.”
Following a meeting organised through the group at Penzance Leisure Centre, which more than 60 people attended, ideas are now becoming realities. The meeting even raised more than £100 for newly-formed organisation Refugee Aid, an apolitical group based in Penzance which was in the making even before the crisis hit headlines.
Founders of Refugee Aid Tamzin Woods, James Kettless and Bill Goodyear, are now planning to use the donations towards their campaign, Kit-2-Calais, which will fund a trip to Calais with donations, and enable them to bring back stories from the refugees. Tamzin said: “We started Refugee Aid to take much-needed supplies over, but also to bring back stories to show that these are just ordinary people.”
“The reaction has been really positive and the support has been fantastic. We’ve had lot of people coming forward to offer various skills, and we’re still looking for more.” Through the Facebook group, one local resident has even collected a whole barn full of donations, which can physically take no more, and the organisation aims to take it over to Calais in early November.
The upcoming auction, to be held on November 20 at the Queen’s Hotel, Penzance, will feature donated works from renowned local artists, including Jess Cooper and Jonty Henshall.
Tamzin said: “I just felt powerless over the refugees and the awful press coverage they have been receiving. It’s on our doorstep, and we really wanted to help – that’s why we started. “It’s about keeping people alive. These are just normal people in unfortunate circumstances. We can help them and we’re choosing to help.”