News Release

Tunbridge Wells Collects for Refugees in Hungary

Children of the Tunbridge Wells congregation of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter- day Saints recently pitched in to provide a helping hand to Syrian refugees in Hungarian refugee camps. Collecting items from members and sorting them on the day, they proved to be a valuable asset.

The charitable efforts, known as RefugEase, to collect and organise needed items for refugees were community wide and brought approximately 2,000 participants together, but none could dismiss the dedicated work of these the youngest volunteers, ranging in age from five to nine years old.

At first, organisers of the event were hesitant when they saw the young participants, but after watching them in action, they were amazed by the stamina and respect these children had for the cause. “They all worked very hard and were absolutely exhausted, but after working two hours straight, the children asked if there was anything else they could help with. People were in awe,” primary leader Angela Friend said. “Others were impressed and kept asking, ‘Who are you people?’”

Angela Friend said she was personally motivated by RefugEase and wanted to help out as much as possible.   “My mother escaped from Mozambique,” Angela said. “She was on the last train before the war started, and when she got here, even though she had paperwork, she was stuck in a refugee camp. They only had the clothes they were wearing. People were throwing blankets and food over the fence to help, and that’s how my mother and others survived. Because I am an immigrant and my mother was a refugee, it was a very personal thing for me because if those people didn’t help my mother, I wouldn’t be here. They don’t know who I am and I don’t know who they are, but through these efforts I’ve been able to pay it forward.”

The donated items were initially collected at the bottom of a steep hill. The trek to bring the items to the trucks at the top of the hill quickly winded the adult volunteers, but the primary children enjoyed the challenge and assisted the adults in clearing approximately 400 to 500 kilograms, filling a large van destined for the Hungarian camps. 

“I asked the kids why we are doing this and they said, ‘By following Heavenly Father’s plan, we can help one another,’” Angela Friend commented. Seven-year-old Sofia Friend felt that children all over the world should join in the efforts to assist these refugees. “It made me feel really happy to help out,” she said, “and I felt it was important because we were helping people who didn’t have any shoes or anything. It was really hard work, but I think everybody should help out the refugees.” 

The cause collected items such as clothing, nappies, wipes, sleeping bags, sanitary items, toothpastes and toothbrushes, to name a few. The combined efforts managed to fill two month’s quota for hygiene products for the Hungarian refugee camps. 

RefugEase found its beginning when Valentina Osborn, a humanitarian aid volunteer, decided she needed to find a way people in the community could assist in alleviating some of the hardships the refugees were going through. She got in touch with the Hungarian border agency and asked what things they would need. She also helped to organise bake sales and fundraisers to raise the £2.5 thousand pounds needed to transport the goods. The Tunbridge Wells community efforts combined helped to collect approximately eight tons of needed goods over the period of a month, a load that was transported to the camps in twelve trucks.   

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