Strengthens trustee team with Rev. Jeremy Putnam in preparation for 2019
In the last few weeks, the charity Cornwall Hugs welcomed 27 more of those suffering trauma and loss in the wake of Grenfell Tower Fire, Britain’s worst post-war fire, which claimed 72 lives in June 2018. This brings the number who’ve taken Cornish respite holidays to over 350 including 29% of all Tower Survivors. Families stayed all over Cornwall in holiday accommodation pledged by private owners, from Bude to Carbis Bay, Polperro to Flushing and for the first time on the Isles of Scilly, following a successful day trip for a bereaved family this August.
The charity aims to help families rest, grieve and make new ‘post-fire’ memories, which can act as source of resilience and hope in the months ahead. Having witnessed the fire, many children are suffering from PTSD and a loss of confidence. Through water-sports and new adventures the charity seeks to boost self-esteem and trust.
Luciana, mother of two boys who were evacuated on the night of the fire, spent eight months in basic hotel rooms and and are still in temporary accommodation, spoke of her half-term holiday in Polperro, on the phone from London this week, ’Just today my son was on the bus here and he said to me, ‘Look I’m going crabbing now! Every night he plays at catching crabs in the bath! You know, Cornwall never leaves their minds now!’ Luciana continued, ‘I have no words to describe how wonderful it was and how kind everyone is. Even the psychologist said to me, ‘I’m so happy for your family, you have come back looking so well and you all look like you had such a good time.’
Tina, another displaced neighbour, came with her two sons for a week on the Isles of Scilly. ‘After what happened, my son didn’t want to trust anyone anymore. He lost his little friends and then his dad. But this holiday, with everyone’s kindness has made a difference - to see him smiling and trusting the world again is amazing.’
‘The Inquiry is at a very intense phase right now and support workers tell us people desperately need a break. Giving evidence or listening to friends’ testimonies is harrowing. The questions are detailed, right down to the colour of the smoke, the smells, who they saw, where. It re-triggers many sensory elements of the trauma for them, so a time by the sea can be particularly healing,’ says founder, Esmé Page. ‘Many have come to see Cornwall as a safe place - a sanctuary. Their memories of beautiful places and the kindness of strangers are literally a ‘safe place’ to go to in their minds, when it’s all getting too much. I think Cornwall can be very proud of all its offered this community.’
Jess Vian, who offered her accommodation on St Mary’s, spoke of why she’d joined the vision, ‘I think it’s just wonderful to be part of this effort to open up the islands to people who need it. There’s calm and security to be found here and it’s great we can share it.’ Travel to the islands was provided, free of charge, by the Isles of Scilly Travel Company.
Cornwall Hugs Grenfell began with a Facebook post a few days after the fire and took off as hundreds of individuals and businesses offered holiday accommodation and activities. Support is still strong and the charity has welcomed Rev Jeremy Putnam, All Saints Highertown, Truro to its team of trustees as it plans for more individual and group holidays in 2019.
‘We’re thrilled to have Rev Jeremy Putnam on board in a formal capacity,’ says Esmé Page, ‘Jeremy and his wife, Ruth, have been a huge encouragement to the project since the early days. Jeremy has enormous charitable and social expertise, including his work with refugee resettlement, ACTS 435 (financial crisis support) and the upcoming Sanctuary In Cornwall Conference (Dec 1st). He has a real vision for Cornwall as a sanctuary, which resonates very much with what we do. It’s a blessing to have his expertise and wisdom on the team.’ Rev Jeremy Putnam is Chaplain to the Mayor of Truro and Chair of Churches Together.
‘I was delighted to be asked by Cornwall Hugs to be a trustee,’ says Rev Jeremy Putnam, ‘Like the rest of the country I was seriously saddened by the horror of the Grenfell Tower fire and felt compelled to do something to support the community. I have been inspired by the strength and determination demonstrated by the Grenfell survivors and the wider community for justice and healing. I know, as a minister, how long and complex the process of grief and recovery from trauma can be, especially after such an horrific event. It's clear that Cornwall Hugs' ongoing work of accompanying those affected by this devastating fire is highly valued by them. It is an honour to be involved.'
Rev Putnam joins retired solicitor, Andrew Holt (Treasurer), formally Finance Director of the charity, Interhealth Worldwide and Esmé Page (Chair) on the board.
Support for 2019
Businesses and accommodation providers who would like to join the vision are invited to visit www.cornwallhuggrenfell.org. The charity would also be very interested to hear from Trusts or funds who would he open to receive an application for funding.
Note to editors:
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 350 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 250 businesses in Cornwall and beyond.
MEDIA CONTACTS and IMAGES
Esmé Page via firstname.lastname@example.org 07803 594 285
1. Winston (10) and Kayron (8)’s first dip on St Mary’s, Isles of Scilly
2. Mounir (4) and Samir (8) first time crabbing in Cornwall
4. Cornwall Hugs trustees: Andrew Holt, Esmé Page, Rev Jeremy Putnam