Burnley’s refugee rallying cry
Public-spirited individuals have led the way in lending support to families fleeing the war-torn Middle East country.
Former St Hilda’s RC Girls High School pupils Elaine Ortiz and Suzanne Bridge have set up the Hummingbird Project to help refugees gathering in the French port of Calais.
The pair visited the Leeds Music Festival where they collected goods left behind by revellers including pots, pans and sleeping bags, which will they take personally to Calais later this month.
Suzanne said: “It is a matter of life and death. These poor people are having to fell their own country to escape war and oppression.
“It’s not an easy journey, it’s not easy having to rebuild your life somewhere else.”
The group has set up a donation drop-off centre at Kennanks on Barracks Road in Burnley, where people can drop off any items that could help the crisis.
Meanwhile, former Burnley Express reporter Ben Kenyon has helped to set up the East Lancs Refugee Solidarity group, which is gathering and co-ordinating donations across the area.
Ben said: “We know the people of East Lancashire are some of the most big-hearted folk around.
“We want to help deliver essential supplies collected from East Lancashire to help these people survive – that means shelter, clothing, food, medical and sanitary items.
“We are just a small group of volunteers collecting aid items and donations – but we are working with a larger group who are transporting these items directly to refugees in Calais as well as flying aid out to Greece and Syria in the next few weeks where the crisis is at its worst.”
Individuals are also contributing personally on a smaller, but no less important scale, encouraging work colleagues to do their bit.
Burnley Express editorial assistant Laura Longworth has organised an office collection – one of many across the borough.
Church leaders and politicians have also lent their voice of support. Bishop of Burnley, the Rt Rev. Philip North said: “It is time for a generous and proportionate response and for the British nation to show it values generosity and is prepared to make sacrifices in the name of justice and peace.”
Burnley MP Julie Cooper said she was heartened by the response of Burnley people.
She said: “I have had lots of emails and calls from Burnley residents asking how they can help and offering to put families up in their homes.
“I am overwhelmed by their generosity, but the Government now needs to do more. This has been an issue for 18 months, and it’s quite sickening that it has taken a photograph of a young boy washed up on a beach to jolt the Government into helping.”
Council leader Coun. Mark Townsend said: “The images from across Europe have been terrible and all that can be done must be done to help as many as possible. Like other councils in the area, Burnley will play its part in responding to this situation and will be talking to the Home Office about its approach nationally and how we fit into that.”