Who are we?
A group of like-minded people who have come together from all over Derbyshire and who want to help refugees. The group now has a core committee of Chair (Amy Sunshine), Treasurer (Lucy Kay) and Secretary (Cath Hollywell), a co-ordinator who helps with admin and sorting collections and sort days (Rhiannon Fae) and a storage co-ordinator (Marie Cowley). The Derbyshire Refugee Solidarity group now has over 400 members on Facebook!
How did we come to be?
Earlier this year a lady called Hazel Sirene was very moved by all the refugee posts (especially the one about the Syrian boy) and joined a UK wide support group. She started asking people locally if they would donate items to help the refugees. There was a post in the group ‘where is everybody from’ and she just happened to scroll down and see Rebecca pop up and say she was from Derbyshire, so she got in touch and that’s how they got connected.
Having heard so many differing stories in the press about the refugee and migrant situation at Calais, Rebecca Goodall decided to check it out for herself on the way home from a family holiday in France this summer. What followed upon her return from holiday was a mission to do something and act to help.
Hazel and Rebecca set up the East Midlands group and the whole thing gained momentum! Rebecca did the first convoy to Calais on August 12th, with donations from various places in Derbyshire including Ashbourne. Initial mutual support for the trip came through the ‘Calais People to People Solidarity – Action from UK’ group.
Between them, Rebecca and Hazel set up a collection point back in September and were inundated! They didn’t have anywhere to store it so they took everything to Rebecca’s in Ashbourne.
Hazel organised the storage space we now have at the Flower Market via Jo West, a local councillor, and Derby People’s Kitchen were also doing drop off points for us from the beginning.
Marie became involved in the Derbyshire solidarity group in the beginning (September) but, as she points out, “the amount we have achieved and lives we have positively impacted on has been immense in such a short space of time”. The public’s generosity has been amazing. Early on Marie did an article with the Nottingham Evening Post and offered her email address so the community had a contact point to access donation points. She must have received over 100 emails from all walks of life and out of that 100 only 1 that had negative content.
The amount people have donated already is so humbling it drove us onwards to deliver 3 large convoys to northern France, a container to Syria (and we are currently planning to send a 2nd) and 2 containers to Greece to assist in the refugee situation there. We have provided enough food to feed around 4000 men, women and children who may have otherwise gone hungry that day.
When the headlines you read in the media tell their readers that no one supports more refugees coming to the UK, and more should be done ‘at home’, the response we continue to receive does not reflect that.
What happens next?
We aren’t slowing down! With more convoys to France, volunteers leaving for Greece to physically help there, and beyond. Anyone who wishes to volunteer can do so in big and small ways whether it’s hosting a meeting for co-ordinators, attending a sorting and packing day, fundraising or actually taking part in a convoy.
Sorting days are held regularly with at least one a month and group meetings are held monthly on a Monday evening in the Brewery Tap. All events are posted on the DE Solidarity Facebook page and we will also be posting on here (People’s Diary) in the future.
Where can you find us?
You can find us on Facebook by searching for Derbyshire Refugee Solidarity, don’t be misled by the status Closed Group – you can ask to join.
If you are not a Facebook user but want to get in touch and help you can email DESolidarity @ outlook.com and we will respond as soon as we can!