News Release

Staines to the Rescue for Calais Refugees

Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and community volunteers in the Staines area turned out in force on Saturday 21st November to assemble food parcels and pack warm coats and shoes for desperate refugees in Calais. Over 150 people from the Church and local community met at a Church meeting house in Staines to put together more than 460 food parcels, which were then immediately driven to Calais that afternoon. 

The event was named ‘To the Rescue’. Church members wearing the familiar Mormon Helping Hands vests, together with members of the community, exercised care in ensuring that all food products were packed in accordance with the guidelines received from the charity ‘Care4Calais'. Many had spent almost three weeks gathering donations from family and friends and, in several cases, donating entire parcels, valued at £25 each, themselves. Organiser Fiona Phillips remarked, "This is what we do best. The Helping Hands programme of our Church works regularly in the community to help people. We are organised to be able to respond when there is a need."

Church member and local mum, Louise Elder, set up a Facebook page, named 'Project: To the Rescue', to ask for donations when the event was announced at the start of November. “I knew that my family could put together a couple of food parcels and maybe a few coats, but I also knew the impact would be so much greater if I asked my friends and local community to join with our Church and help make a difference,” Louise said.  

Within 12 hours of the page going live, numerous complete food parcels and individual food donations had been offered, with the final total being over 80 parcels and 46 warm coats given from her page alone. “The support for this project, especially from people I had never met, was really amazing. People want to help and I was grateful for our Helping Hands programme that united us in doing so,” said Louise.

Lisa Alderton, from Woking, is not a member of the Church, but gave 75 parcels on the day that she had been gathering together herself. Lisa said: "I felt like no matter how hard I worked I couldn't generate an offering that would make a significant impact. This is a great community."

The donations were driven in convoy on Saturday afternoon to Calais, where 16 men and women from the Church met with Care4Calais volunteers on the ground to then distribute the parcels directly to the camp. The response from volunteers and recipients alike was humbling and the delivery timely. Owing to the terror attacks of Paris eight days previously, aid reaching the camp had been severely impacted and, as of Saturday morning, there was a shortage of food. "On Saturday night, fewer refugees went to bed hungry than the night before", said Church leader, Paul Hearne. 'However there is still much more to do."

Russell Ball, regional president of the congregations of the Church in the local area and one of the drivers to the camp, commented, “Laying aside political views, there are thousands of people suffering in camps 22 miles from the English coast. There are many things I don't know about these people. What I do know is they fear their homes more than these dreadful camps, that they're hungry and cold. The charities on the ground in Calais are desperate for more help and I have to say that we will be going back.”

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