Donations for Scalford hotel refugees praised as ‘incredibly generous’
One of the main collectors of donated provisions for refugees staying at a hotel near Melton says local people have been ‘incredibly generous’ and that she has been moved to tears by meeting those who are fleeing from their own unsafe homelands.
Helen Cliff is working with the charity, Care4Calais, and has been regularly delivering clothing and toiletries to asylum-seekers who are living for short periods at Scalford Country House Hotel while their applications are being processed.
She said designated collection points around the town have been inundated with donations from residents across the borough in the last few weeks and that the reaction of people receiving the items has been heart-warming.
Helen told the Melton Times: “I’ve been up to the Scalford hotel numerous times.
“We meet all the refugees because we are distributing the items to them personally.
“I wish local people could see the looks of gratitude and the smiles on their faces.
“Some of these people are not much older than my own sons.
“One day I did get back home and looked at my 16-year-old and burst into tears because I was feeling so emotional.”
It has been a real community effort with pupils and staff at Melton’s Long Field Spencer Academy, volunteers at the town’s Storehouse and members of local churches getting involved in collecting donated items.
Training shoes, jeans and bags or ruck sacks, for the refugees to keep their meagre possessions in, are in particular demand at present.
Playing cards, notepads and pens are also welcome because they have little to do in the time they are there.
“People have been incredibly generous, it’s been fantastic to see,” said Helen.
“We’ve got quite a high turnover of refugees coming to Scalford hotel and the need is always outstripping what we are collecting.”
There are currently just over 100 asylum seekers currently staying there - they are confined to the hotel building under strict security.
Helen added: “In terms of the people who are coming forward and volunteering to help with the collections, we all come from different backgrounds, probably support different political parties and have differing views about immigration.
“But as someone on our volunteer team said to me, ‘I’m a human first’.
“Whatever our opinions on how they got here and what should happen to them next, they are human beings and they deserve to have a bit of dignity in the way they are treated.
“We are trying to give them a little bit of warmth, compassion, and a bit of reassurance because they are frightened and don’t know what’s going to happen next.”
Long Field Spencer Academy say they have been ‘overwhelmed’ by the reponse to their collections being set up - students have this week been sorting the clothes into sizes and categories to make it easier for Helen and her colleague to distribute to the people.
Michelle Young, who is co-ordinating the school’s activities, said: “We are mainly supporting the refugees at Scalford hotel at the moment.
“The donations have come from students at school as well as the wider community.
“We have mainly had donations for the men, including underwear, shorts, trousers, jumpers and coats and have been overwhelmed with the level of donations received from the community.
“Some students will also have lessons about the current situation in Afghanistan and the plight of refugees to help make sense of what they are seeing in the media at the moment, and to gain a full insight into the value of their donations.”
Donated provisions have also been collected at the office of Melton MP Alicia Kearns, with these items going to the two families the borough council has pledged to rehouse from those who had fled Afghanistan in recent weeks following the takeover by the Taliban.
These are families of people who helped British forces while they were based there and who the government is funding to live in the UK.
Mrs Kearns told the Melton Times: “I know how generous the people of Melton are.
“Having opened my office in Melton as a donation point for Afghan refugees, we have been inundated with kind donations.
“I know that people are looking for ways to help, and it goes to show how our communities are as welcoming as any in the world.
“We now have a very large amount of donations, and once we know the make up of the families who will be settling in Melton I will reach out if any specific needs arise.”
Councils in Leicestershire and Rutland are working together to co-ordinate their response to resettle Afghan refugees.
The key focus is finding suitable self-contained properties for families and owners of properties in both counties which could be suitable are being urged to register them via an online portal.
Charnwood Borough Council is co-ordinating the work for all local district councils, including Melton, while Leicestershire County Council is assisting the borough and districts where there are social care needs and access to school places.
Councillor Paul Mercer, lead member for private housing at Charnwood, said on behalf of all the councils involved: “We have all seen the news coverage highlighting the situation in Afghanistan and naturally we all want to help people who are in real danger.
“The government has asked councils to support these resettlement schemes and that’s what we are doing in Leicestershire and Rutland.
“We would urge anyone who owns a property which may be suitable to register it via the online portal set up by government. Once a property has been registered it can be assessed for suitability.”
Go online at www.gov.uk/government/publications/afghanistan-housing-portal-offers-of-support to put forward a property to house one of the Afghan families.
Visit www.goldengiving.com/fundraising/meltonrefugees to make cash donations to help asylum seekers being housed at Scalford.