Church overwhelmed by Hartlepool’s kindness to refugees

Volunteers sorting through the huge amount of aid for refugees at St Columba Church, Hartlepool
Volunteers sorting through the huge amount of aid for refugees at St Columba Church, Hartlepool

A church was overwhelmed with the town’s generous response of aid for refugees at a collection point.

Hartlepool residents moved by news footage of refugees fleeing to Europe donated van fulls of clothes, toiletries and bedding.

Volunteers sorting through the huge amount of aid for refugees at St Columba Church, Hartlepool

Volunteers sorting through the huge amount of aid for refugees at St Columba Church, Hartlepool

A team of around 50 volunteers worked flat out on Saturday and Sunday to receive and sift through the mountains of aid at St Columba Church, in Dryden Road.

Church curate Reverend Gemma Sampson said: “It was complete chaos but it was amazing – the community at its very best.

“I was proud of Hartlepool.”

The church acted as one of around half a dozen collection points across the North East.

Volunteers sorting through the huge amount of aid for refugees at St Columba Church, Hartlepool

Volunteers sorting through the huge amount of aid for refugees at St Columba Church, Hartlepool

It was inundated with aid from individuals and other church groups after a call for help went out on social media through the group North East Solidarity with Calais Refugees.

Rev Sampson added: “It just went viral. The amount of aid that came was completely overwhelming. Van fulls just kept turning up.

“It was completely unexpected. We must have had triple the amount we were expecting.

“Things were stacked 10ft-high on all four sides of the church.

“We had to move mass into the kitchen because there was just no room left in the church. The number of bags is uncountable.

“It was unbelievable.”

The aid will be taken directly to people in makeshift refugee camps in Calais that have been set up to deal with the huge numbers of people.

Rev Sampson said most of the people there are refugees fleeing from the civil war in Syria.

“It has been a really well organised campaign in liaison with people in Calais and everything will end up in the hands of people most in need,” she added.