15 Grenfell families come to Falmouth for rest, recuperation and new horizons
Sixty-two guests from Kensington enjoyed the best of Cornish fun, food, fresh air and local attractions during a week-long holiday organised by Cornwall Hugs Grenfell last week. This holiday is believed to be the first of its kind in the UK in scope and tailored design.
The 15 families stayed together at the University of Exeter’s Cornwall campus at Penryn. The 62 strong group consisted of: Grenfell Tower survivors; those from evacuated neighbouring blocks and families in key support roles to the bereaved.
As well as two days of water-sports provided by ElementalUK, a farm visit to M D Dale & Son and trips to attractions such as the Eden Project and St Michael’s Mount, the programme was crafted with reflective, therapeutic sessions. These included massage and reflexology offered by Inspiring Health, Sound Therapy by Living Voice and a Freedom Singing workshop by Pip Wright. Some youngsters took part in a sculpture session with Pat MacWilliams of Wild Art Cornwall, who works with those recovering from PTSD.
The 62 guests aged between 7 weeks and 64 years with only one guest having visited Cornwall before. They have told organisers that taking part in activities for the first time, such as paddle-boarding and riding on the Hangloose ZipWire at the Eden Project has boosted their confidence, and that being in the county was like experiencing “natural therapy”. Guests also reflected on the emotional journey that the singing, sculpting, massage and sound therapy had enabled.
‘Cornwall gave me the time and space to deal with my ‘true’ emotions. There was no more suppressing…the calm and gentle atmosphere of Cornwall encouraged me to let out the pain and take in some of the healing. Cornwall Hugs Grenfell provided the right type of ‘medicine’,’ said mother of two, Hanan Wahabi, a primary school teacher who used to live on the 9th floor of Grenfell Tower. Wahabi lost her brother’s family of five who lived on the 21st floor in the fire. ‘I will forever remember what happened to us and our devastating loss, but being in Cornwall encouraged me to recall the good memories I shared with those I lost. Especially as they loved visiting beaches and my brother collected models of boats and ships. My time in Cornwall reminded me that time is precious and allowed me to spend quality time with family and friends in the secure space of the campus and the various trips that had been planned for us. Cornwall gave me new friendships and a place I know I can go to when it all just gets too much!’ She added, ‘Love to you all who made it happen and to the Cornish people who just smiled and made us feel welcome. God bless you all!’
One guest, a grandmother said, ‘My tears now are positive tears. When I came, my tears were very negative and hurtful tears.’ She said she was taking away, ‘A form of balance - that there’s more to life than the tragedy we’ve all had to endure. I know we’re going back into that environment but at least we can look back and cherish these memories in order to move forward.’
The 30 children in the group revelled in the freedom of the Cornish spaces and made connections with the benefit to their families. Israa, aged 12, whose family was evacuated from a neighbouring block to Grenfell and has been living in hotel accommodation since the fire, said Cornwall had given everyone “fresh air”. She said: “Coming here takes off like all the bad memories that happened in London. When you come here, in the sun and going to the beach, it takes all that memory off and starts anew. It’s been good for my family because we got to do something we all enjoy.”
‘This has been a rich, humbling, week, getting to know each other and watching our guests relax in our beautiful surroundings - it’s what we dreamt for them.’ said Esmé Page, founder, Cornwall Hugs Grenfell. ‘They’ve found some peace and hope and made the first steps towards the future. We’ve been abundantly blessed, by the businesses supporting us, the weather and each other. We’ve shared moving conversations, laughed together, sung together, cried together, prayed together. Many guests have said how healing it has been to re-build something of the community they have lost. It’s been a privilege to begin, what is set to be a lasting connection between Cornwall and those from Grenfell Tower.’
Guests expressed their thanks to the Cornish community and the ‘kind locals’. One mother summed this up, ’I just wanted to say thank you and blessings to Cornwall to everybody who put this together - the hearts, the souls, the strength, the courage that went into bringing us down from London, not knowing us, just feeling for us and feeling everything that we felt. I think the world should do more of this. This is what humanity is about and Cornwall is a great example of humanity. Thank you!’
‘This has been a real team effort. Thanks to campus staff and volunteers, in particular to Heather Fitzgerald, her team and the little group of students who got involved,’ commented Esmé. ‘I’m grateful for Tony Sander’s generosity and trust in joining our vision and for his staff’s warm-hearted, efficient approach.’
‘As soon as we heard of Cornwall Hugs Grenfell, I knew there was a role the campus could play in hosting a group of guests,’ said Tony Sanders, managing director, of the university service delivery partner FX Plus, ‘It’s been a delight to watch the campus staff welcoming and caring for the guests and we’ve all been enriched by their presence.’
‘Thank you to all the volunteers and companies who are supporting our individual and group holidays. For this group holiday, our thanks go to the companies listed below. Particular thanks to Dany Duncan from ElementalUK for his great help co-ordinating vehicles and volunteer drivers,’ said Esmé Page. ‘People are excited to get involved. Many said how enriching the experience was and plan to stay in touch with guests.’
‘I was bowled over by the positivity of everyone we took on the water. Young and old, they all wanted to have a go. They’ve been through something unimaginable so doing a tiny something to help build new memories was a privilege,’ said Dany Duncan, ElementalUK.
Those companies who supported the holiday and are willing to be named include:
Addison Lee cabs for London transfers
Cavendish Coffee House
Castle Beach Café - free ice-creams
COMCab for London transfers
ElementalUK - two days’ water-sports on Swanpool Beach Café, transport co-ordination
English Heritage, Pendennis and St Mawes Castle - free entry
Falmouth School - mini-bus and driver (headteacher)
Falmouth Fire and Rescue - mini-bus drivers
FirstKernow and FalRiver: mussel card passes for travel
5 Degrees West - dinner
Flambards - free entry to theme park
FX Plus - hosting for 62 guests at Penryn campus
Gylly Beach Café - lunch
Harbour Lights - fish and chip supper delivered to Swanpool Beach
Hang loose - free ZipWire experiences at the Eden Project
Living Voice - sound therapy session
Molly’s Tea Room - cream teas
National Maritime Museum - free entry
NT St Michael’s Mount - free entry
OTS Bus - for local transfers
Penryn School - mini-bus provision and driver (headteacher)
Picnic Cornwall - individualised picnics for the journey home
Plymouth CityBus - two days’ of coach travel to attractions
Raze the Roof - free entry
Rumbles2 - printing
Ships & Castles - free entry
St Austell Printing Company - printing
TD Dale & Son’s Farm - farm visit to meet the animals and ride on the tractors
The Eden Project - free entry
University of Exeter
Warrens - pasties and vouchers
West Country Food
WisdomSigns - signage
The Falmouth group holiday was oversubscribed and Cornwall Hugs Grenfell is now calling for property owners to pledge the half-term weeks October 20th or February 10th with the aim of offering another group holiday for those who missed out this time. Cornwall Hugs Grenfell is keen to hear from large accommodation providers who may be willing to offer 5-10 units in one place. Individual properties are also invited to pledge at www.cornwallhugsgrenfell.org. Properties where visitors don’t need a car are particularly sought after.
Much needed monetary donations are invited to help CHG reach its £5000 target via: https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/cornwallhugsgrenfellphase2
Esmé Page via email@example.com 07803 594 285
Hanan Wahabi and her daughter Sara(9) kayaking with ElementalUK on Swanpool beach
Group of Grenfell guests on ElementalUK’s giant SUP
Further images available from the Sunday Times Syndication. Thank you.
Note to editors:
Cornwall Hugs Grenfell is a voluntary organisation set up by Esmé Page and began with a vision set out in a Facebook post on June 20th, ‘Imagine if we could put a Cornish holiday on the horizon of every Grenfell resident and firefighter family: a time to rest, a time to let our beautiful county bless these people and work its gentle magic.’ Since then the project has gathered 200+ pledges of accommodation and countless vouchers from local businesses for attractions and meal. This Summer the organisation has arranged numerous holidays for families in individual holiday cottages as well as the Falmouth group holiday. The project is set to run until 2019.
Follow us on twitter: @cornwallhugs
On Facebook: Cornwall Hugs Grenfell