Like so many others, Labour Party members were horrified by the terrible events of the fire at Grenfell tower six months ago. We were particularly struck by the immediate needs of the survivors, who were left without a home, having lost family members and neighbours, and without any possessions.
After speaking to donation centres about what was needed, Seyi Akiwowo, Rokhsana Fiaz and Rachel Tripp put out a call for donations for the survivors on the 14th June 2017. We were so thankful for support from CoffeE7 who kindly made their room upstairs available as a drop-off point. We kept the period of time for donations purposely very short, with a specific list of items that we knew were particularly needed. We circulated the information about where and when to drop off which items via social media.
In the end, we were glad that the drop-off times were so short, as we were overwhelmed by the generosity of Labour party members and Newham residents, and received much more than we expected. We spent some time with party members and some hard working local volunteers. We went through all the donated items, sorting, discarding anything in bad condition, and grouping items together by size, type, or age, into boxes and bags that we labelled.
Around two thirds of the items donated were driven to West London over the next few weeks. This included much needed food, toiletries and water which were given to the various centres near the tower collecting donations. The rest of the items remained in 306 Stratford High Street (for which many thanks to our comrades for enabling us to use the space) for a time. Since physical collections were then no longer being taken at Grenfell, we decided to use the rest of the kind donations for another good cause. An organisation called Khidma without Borders crated up the rest of the items (largely clothes) and sent them to refugee camps in Greece and Syria. We hope that those of you who kindly donated your items will feel that this was a good use of them.
Donating these clothes raised around £200 which we were keen to donate to a grass roots organisation working with the residents, families and survivors of the fire. Especially because there had been some discussion about how much aid donated to larger organisations was reaching those in need, we wanted to find an organisation that was small, and local, with direct contact with the people affected. Fellow Labour Party member Zita Holbourne kindly recommended an organisation called 24 hearts, and we have given the money to support this work. Zita’s words of recommendation are pasted below.
We would like to thank all those who were involved in helping with this collection, and with the arrangements afterwards. All those who donated, who helped publicise our collection, the various people who spent hours sorting and labelling, our friends at CoffeE7 who gave over their upstairs room to donations, our comrades in West Ham Labour who kindly allowed us to store donations in 306, Zita for her research and recommendation, and anyone else who helped in any small way. The shadow of Grenfell still stretches over London, many of the families affected are still in temporary accommodation, there are concerns about the enquiry, and questions about tower block safety are still being asked. But in the immediate aftermath of that tragedy, the grief and horror that we all felt in Newham was quickly translated into an outpouring of kindness and generosity. We were pleased to be able to play a part in co ordinating that into some help for those affected, and hope that the project below will help to bring some healing and comfort to those affected.
24 hearts. http://www.24hearts.org/
Sophie Lodge is a local artist and lives in the area, she was there on the night and set up an art area the same day as the fire to keep the kids busy. She is the curator who started 24 hearts, for 24 floors of Grenfell. She has a display under Grenfell of all the residents and those affected who have made hearts, she has also made individual hearts at funerals and so forth. So far all at her own expense, however recently she has put together a project to go in to all the schools in the borough and do heart marking workshops with the children in the local area as many of the schools have not had children returning due to them passing in the blaze.
Sophie plans on taking the hearts they create and displaying them permanently along lampposts in Ladbroke Grove. She already has schools on board some of whom are able to finance part of the project as there are obviously costs involved, and she has permission from the council to use the lamp posts for the art the children create. She is well known in the community and well respected and the £200 would really benefit her project.