The RNLI has been working alongside the charity Cornwall Hugs to bring some joy into the lives of youngsters affected by the Grenfell fire which claimed 71 lives in June 2017.
Following the fire, the charity Cornwall Hugs began a project – Cornwall Hugs Grenfell – with the aim of giving every Grenfell resident and firefighter family affected by the fire the chance to enjoy a holiday in Cornwall. Since then the charity has provided almost 200 holidays for survivors, the bereaved, evacuated neighbours and firefighters.
Last October some of the children and their families visited Penlee Lifeboat Station in Newlyn, Penzance and were guided around the station by coxswain Patch Harvey. One of the young visitors from Grenfell, three-year-old Salahadin caught the lifeboat bug, crying out ‘that’s my boat!’ every time he saw the lifeboat leave the harbour during his holiday.
On his return to London, the charity began considering how to keep those memories alive for children like Salahadin and made contact with the RNLI at Tower Lifeboat Station on the River Thames which is a little closer to where they live – just six miles from Grenfell compared to more than 300 from Penlee!
This Sunday (May 13) six children, aged from two to ten from two families from Grenfell tower and one of the neighbouring evacuated blocks were welcomed to Tower Lifeboat Station on Victoria Embankment by the Tower crew. Tower is the RNLI’s busiest station, launching 485 times last year and aiding 150 people.
‘Lifeboat volunteers have huge hearts and the Tower crew is no exception,’ said Esme Page, from Cornwell Hugs. ‘They immediately understood how important these experiences are to kids after all the grief and trauma they’ve been through’.
The children were welcomed to the station by RNLI volunteer Jim Allen, who is also a London firefighter. Tower station’s E class lifeboat is very different to Penlee’s all-weather Severn class lifeboat Ivan Ellen and Jim’s presentation was repeatedly interrupted with comparisons, said Esme.
‘Every time a Severn class boat appeared on screen Salahadin shouted out proudly, ‘That’s Patch’s boat’ and ‘Patch’s boat is bigger!’ described Esme, who said the visit had been an incredible experience for the children:
‘They have brought the river to life for these children and put some wonderful new pictures in their heads,’ she said. ‘That’s so healing when you live each day in the shadow of the tower, particularly in the run up to this difficult anniversary time.’
During the visit the children were also shown the kit room and got the chance to wear RNLI protective clothing. Sisters Alyasar, aged ten and Yussra, aged eight, were particularly excited to see female lifeboat crew in the presentation. As she left the station Alyasar commented that she would be interested in becoming crew at Tower when she was older:
‘I was surprised how many people they rescued and how fast their boats go and how many boats they have. It was very cool. I think I do want to be a lifeboat lady, maybe. It’s actually fun saving people’s lives but I would choose the fast boat!’ she said.
While they were at the station Salahadin was also able to present Tower staff helm Craig Burn with a newly published history of the Penlee Lifeboat which had been signed by the Penlee crew.
‘This is a very moving account of the station’s history including the loss of the Solomon Browne with all hands in 1981. It feels fitting that it should be a young Cornwall Hugs Grenfell guest who presented it to the Tower crew, linking the two stations which have given him so many wonderful new memories to cherish,’ said Esme.
‘It was great to welcome them down and show them Tower Lifeboat Station,’ said Jim Allen, who is an RNLI volunteer lifeboat visits team member. ‘What Esme does at Cornwall Hugs Grenfell is fantastic and for us to get involved in supporting that means a lot. It’s good to be showing some joined-up thinking – knowing that they’ve already been to visit Penlee Lifeboat Station – and to see their happy faces as memories of their time at Penlee came flooding back.,
‘Salahadin is obviously quite taken with Penlee's Coxswain Patch Harvey, and that just goes to show the impact of the visit they had last year. I hope they remember the RNLI as something local now too – that there are not only lifesavers 300 miles away on the coast, but people saving lives right here in his home town too. There was a lot of interest in joining the crew, so it would be great to see them down here as crew in the future.'
‘It meant a lot to me as a firefighter as well, to meet some of the families in a happier setting,' he added.
Craig Burn, Tower Lifeboat Station Duty Helm said: ‘It’s just fantastic to see all the young kids come down with their families. They’ve been through a tough time and to put a smile on their faces and tell them about the lifeboats is brilliant. They seemed very interested and, as a father myself, it’s good to see youngsters taking an interest in lifeboats. Hopefully there are some future crew in the group and we’ll see them again on board in a few years’ time.'
RNLI Media Contacts:
Paul Dunt, Regional Media Officer (South East), 0207 6207426, 07785 296252 firstname.lastname@example.org
Carrie Garrad, Regional Media Officer (South West) (07786) 668847 email@example.com
For enquiries outside normal business hours, contact the RNLI duty press officer on 01202 336789
RNLI online: For more information on the RNLI please visit http://www.rnli.org/. News releases and other media resources, including RSS feeds, downloadable photos and video, are available at the RNLI News Centre.
Cornwall Hugs contact details:
Esmé Page, (07803) 594285 firstname.lastname@example.org
Note to editors:
The project Cornwall Hugs Grenfell is part of the charity Cornwall Hugs (#1177796) and was started by Esmé Page on June 20th 2017 with a Facebook post, ‘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.’ In 2017 the project received 250+ pledges of accommodation and was supported by over 140 local businesses with vouchers for attractions, services and meals. 175 guests holidayed with the project in 2017 in individual holiday cottages and group settings. Over 100 are already booked to come in 2018 and 150+ are waiting to be placed. www.cornwallhugsgrenfell.org
Key facts about the RNLI
The Royal National Lifeboat Institution is the charity that saves lives at sea. Our volunteers provide a 24-hour search and rescue service in the United Kingdom and Ireland from 237 lifeboat stations, including four along the River Thames and inland lifeboat stations at Loch Ness, Lough Derg, Enniskillen and Lough Ree. Additionally the RNLI has more than 1,000 lifeguards on over 180 beaches around the UK and operates a specialist flood rescue team, which can respond anywhere across the UK and Ireland when inland flooding puts lives at risk.
The RNLI relies on public donations and legacies to maintain its rescue service. As a charity it is separate from, but works alongside, government-controlled and funded coastguard services. Since the RNLI was founded in 1824 our lifeboat crews and lifeguards have saved at least 140,000 lives. Volunteers make up 95% of the charity, including 4,600 volunteer lifeboat crew members and 3,000 volunteer shore crew. Additionally, tens of thousands of other dedicated volunteers raise funds and awareness, give safety advice, and help in our museums, shops and offices.
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