Five year old Adam is the 300th guest to visit Cornwall through the Cornish charity Cornwall Hugs Grenfell. The project was set up last June to offer respite breaks to those affected by Grenfell Tower Fire, Britains largest post-war fire, which took place on June 14 2017 and claimed 72 lives. The 300 guests so far include over 25% of all tower survivors as well as the bereaved, displaced neighbours and firefighters. Nearly 200 more are waitlisted. Adam and his family, who lost five family members to the fire, stayed in Marazion for the week and enjoyed the charity’s first day trip to the Isles of Scilly, courtesy of Isles of Scilly Travel (IOST), part of Isles of Scilly Steamship Group, who recently approached Cornwall Hugs to offer transport for guests and Island businesses who followed suit with pledges of help.
‘Adam’s dream is ‘to be a pilot with a guitar’, so this was the perfect way to celebrate our milestone and look to his future - something so important for these children. We’re very grateful to IOST for making it happen and partnering with us going forward.’’ said Esmé Page, founder of Cornwall Hugs Grenfell. Adam who came with his father, mother and two sisters, Aziza (12) and Salima (8) was welcomed into the cock-pit by pilots Jack and Sam, and even given a few tips for his career path, ‘Work hard on your Maths and Physics and you’ll be ok!’
IOST’s pledge of transport comes at a significant moment, as families prepare to give evidence at the public enquiry, which resumes today, September 3rd. ’IOST’s gift unlocks the tranquility and hospitality of the islands to our guests, who are so in need of both,’ comments Esmé Page, adding that 40+ more survivors are waiting for a break as well as 150+ others affected by the tragedy. ‘
The islanders have a long history of welcoming strangers in difficult times and Adam’s family could not get over the peace and kindness they felt there, in just one day. The islands’ are a kind of a sensory antidote to the trauma and loss they’re going through and these new family experiences can bring some hope as they return to the worries of tower block-living and the daunting prospect of the enquiry. If they can take a little bit of that Scilly magic home in their memories, we’ll all know it has been worth it.’
The family commented repeatedly on the peace and beauty on the islands.
‘There are no sirens here. You can just feel the peace settle all around you. You can look at photos of the islands but you don’t feel how it really is, until you’re here,’ said Adam's dad, who watched the fire take hold of Grenfell Tower from his nearby tower block, knowing two parts of his close family were inside. One branch of the family from the 9th floor escaped but Adam's father lost his uncle, aunt and their three children who lived on the 21st floor. ‘The children miss their cousins terribly,’ said Adam's mother. ‘They ask me many questions and often I don’t know how to answer them.’ Looking at the houses lining the beach at Hugh Town, 12 year old Aziza, said simply, ‘There are no towers here. If there’s a problem, the people can just get out. I don’t like living in a tower anymore…it’s scary. There could be a fire at anytime.’
Sharon Sandercock, Marketing Communications Manager for Isles of Scilly Steamship Group said, “Partnering with Cornwall Hugs is a humbling and rich experience, getting to know more about the charity and seeing how these families can benefit from the Scillies environment and peace. It’s an absolute pleasure to be able to bring a little bit of fun into their lives. We look forward to bringing other families to Scilly and we’d like to thank the island-based businesses for partnering on this project to enrich the lives of others”.
Relaxing into the peace and safety of the island, Adam's mum, later commented on how free and natural the siblings’ play was, as they scampered over boulders and explored the rock-pools together, ‘It’s so nice to watch them. They don’t play together like this in London anymore.’ Reflecting later on the benefit of the holiday, dad Billal said, ‘It’s helped us enjoy ourselves individually and as a family, something we find hard to do due to the constant reminders of the Grenfell Fire where we live. It’s also allowed us to rest from the constant reminders and help us to relax.’
Hearing of the IOST’s offer of travel, Island businesses and accommodation providers immediately began to offer help. Apart from the Twin Otter flight, the family enjoyed other new experiences, including a close encounter with the cows (and bull) on Troy Town Farm, St Agnes, and the chance to sample their ice-cream, made just yards from the pasture. This was followed by a family kayak ride with St Agnes Water Sports in the crystal waters nearby. Rob Seddon who runs St Agnes Water Sports said, ’It was really glad to be able to help. I grew up in London and lived there but we can’t begin to imagine what they are going through. It’s good to be able to give them a bit of what we have here. There is no better feeling than seeing families having fun together on the water. ’
With plans to bring more Grenfell families to Scilly during October and May half-terms, businesses and accommodation providers who’d like to join the vision are encouraged to contact IOST directly or register their pledge via CHG’s website: www.cornwallhugsgrenfell.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.’ Since then over 300 guests have come to Cornwall for respite through the project including survivors, the bereaved, displaced neighbours and firefighters. The charity has received 300+ pledges of holiday accommodation and is supported by over 200 businesses in Cornwall and beyond.
MEDIA CONTACTS and IMAGES
Esmé Page via
1. Adam in the cock-pit of IOST Twin Otter
2. Adam jumping on beach on St Agnes
3. Touraya and Salima on St Agnes