Opportunity to do something positive

Yazen Atia and a group of friends from Al Burrito loaded up cars full of donations to take to Calais Picture: Sarah Standing
Yazen Atia and a group of friends from Al Burrito loaded up cars full of donations to take to Calais Picture: Sarah Standing
From left, Southampton City Council leader Simon Letts, Portsmouth City Council leader Donna Jones, and Isle of Wight Council leader Jonathan Bacon sign the formal application for a Solent Combined Authority in 2016

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The Rev Jonathan Jeffery, vicar at St Francis, Leigh Park and St Clare, Warren Park talks about the practical help being given to refugees

LIKE so many people around the world, our congregation has been moved by the images and stories we’ve heard of refugees seeking a better life.

We can sympathise with those forced to flee from their homes and their loved ones by war, conflict, political oppression and poverty.

And of course we can pray for them, and for the root causes that drive desperate people across borders. But like others, sometimes we struggle to know what we can do practically to help.

When we read about the ‘Don’t Hate, Donate’ group in The News, we saw an opportunity to do something positive. Here were some normal people from the community who were prepared to drive to Calais with supplies collected from our area and deliver them directly to those who needed it.

We know they are planning future trips into Europe as well. Yazen Atia and the other volunteers are ordinary people showing how amazing things can happen when people are set on change.

We have already delivered food and toiletries to them, we’ve been to their new depot, and we’ve taken a collection among our congregation, which will go to the British Red Cross appeal.

I’ve also offered St Francis as a drop-off and collection point for the Don’t Hate, Donate campaign in the Havant area.

Anyone who has clothing, food, tents, bedding and toys for children can deliver it to us. We’ll make sure it gets to the people who need it.

As Christians, we see each of these refugees as an individual, with their own story to tell and their own reasons for leaving behind everything they know.

If any of us ended up in that situation, we’d like to know there were others who would try to alleviate our suffering.

The aid campaign owes so much to those prepared to work for change. I am proud to work alongside them as a minor partner.

We can also see the kindness in those who live around Portsmouth, Havant, Leigh Park and the surrounding areas – give people half a chance to do something positive and they will.

The current refugee crisis is a tragedy for so many. But it also provides all of us with a chance to do something that will genuinely make a difference.

ST FRANCIS CHURCH, Riders Lane, Leigh Park, PO9 5GZ

Open for donations to be dropped off: Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings (otherwise knock on the door of the vicarage next door)

Contact: the Rev Jonathan Jeffery on (023) 9247 5276.