‘Vitamin Sea’ for Seven more Survivor and Bereaved Families in Cornwall
Cornwall’s relationship with the Grenfell Tower community strengthened further this Easter, with 34 more survivors and bereaved enjoying a week’s respite in the county through Cornwall Hugs Grenfell. This brings the total number of those supported by the charity to 398, including survivors, the bereaved and firefighters. Guests stayed on the North and South coast, experiencing the full range of Cornish weather, from lashing wind and rain to sunshine, 5 to 22 degrees celsius!
‘Our focus this year is on survivors and the bereaved,’ says founder, Esmé Page. ‘Over a third of all Grenfell Tower survivors have come to Cornwall for respite and we are now seeing an increase in need from those who were bereaved, especially from families with children who have lost cousins, siblings or parents. Most of these lived in or close to the tower. They are dealing not only with their grief but also the trauma of watching the disaster unfold, knowing their loved ones were trapped inside. Sirens and other sight, sound or scent triggers can easily bring flashbacks, at any time of the day or night. Families are also really stressed with the recent post-fire toxicology findings - fresh air is so valued.’
‘We’re not two years on from the fire and Kensington support workers tell us that many who thought they could cope are now really struggling with Complicated Grief and Depression. Living by the sea, Cornish people have an intuitive understanding of trauma and bereavement and I’m so proud of how Cornwall’s committed long-term to give the Grenfell community the healing that our beautiful coast and all these warm Cornish hearts can offer.’
The charity continues to receive support from Cornish businesses and accommodation providers with new ones signing up regularly. ‘With the dicey weather at the start, we were so grateful to The Eden Project and St Michael’s Mount for continuing to offer us free entry and to taxi companies like PZ Taxis for their generous discount.’ says Esmé. ‘The families also enjoyed Falconry sessions at Feadon Farm and a good bounce at Jump4, while the rain pelted down outside. The week ended in blazing sunshine, with scarfs swapped for swimsuits!’
One party, included two sisters who lost their sister and nephew.’We wanted to refresh our minds,’ said the one of the sisters, who stayed in Mousehole with her two boys and two month old baby. ‘Everyone feels like all the stress they’ve had has flown away. It’s very calm here and full of nature.’ The family captured a rare moment of joy for this mum and newborn Biruk, on the beach in St Ives. Baby Biruk (meaning ‘Bless’ in Ethiopian) was named for a nephew, who died in the fire and was a much loved playmate and cousin of Hemen, 7, also in the party.
Hemen, 7, who lost her aunt Birkti and 12 year old cousin, Biruk, gave a heart-warming insight into how some ‘vitamin sea’ can give young minds a break from the stresses since the fire. The clip on Cornwall Hugs’ FB was immediately shared widely (https://www.facebook.com/CornwallHugs/videos/605221496659409). She commented, ‘We’ve lost people in Grenfell and it’s like, we’re heart-broken. Then, when we come to Cornwall it’s lovely and calm, you get stress relief, you think about all of the bad times, then it’s out of your mind and you think about all of the good times that you loved in Cornwall.’ The holiday was Hemen’s first break away from W11 since the fire.
Teenager, Nahom, who lost his mother Birkti, said simply, ‘It allowed our family to rest and have family time.’
Further up the county on the North coast, another bereaved family who lost a daughter and grandchild in the fire stayed at Croft Farm Holiday Cottages, close to Perranporth Beach. Having hosted several families for the charity, owner Molly Eden-James came to the rescue at the last minute this Easter to provide a much needed break.
“When we visited London last summer with our children, it made us even more aware of how lucky we are to have space and greenery around us,’ said host, Molly Eden-James. "There is nothing like a walk on the beach or a view of the sea for grounding you, we are fortunate to be able to offer that piece of calm to others. Grenfell really touched us as a family, and if we can offer space to another family it feels like the right thing to do.”
The bereaved family enjoyed the sunsets at high tide on Perranporth beach, walking the coastal paths, gazing out at the rugged coastline as well as visiting Lands End and making new memories at the Eden Project.
Aicha, mother of Suraiyah and Asiyah who lost their grandmother, took home a cream tea from Perranporth to share with extended family in London. She commented at the end of the stay, ‘The girls had so much fun. We enjoyed being by the sea and spending time to reflect on what’s been happening. Being able to put things behind us for a while. Thank you for a lovely time we had there it was very much needed and appreciated’.
A survivor family of eight, who stayed in Newquay very much appreciated the Cornish Food Box that awaited them on arrival. The mum summed up their stay and Cornwall / Kensington relationship with the following comments, ‘Cornwall Hugs has been an organisation which has floated around the area for a while now. There’s always an appreciation for Cornwall Hugs when the neighbours speak between ourselves and now I understand why. You guys have provide some much needed respite in such a beautiful place I cannot even express how much our family appreciates your efforts. Every small detail was considered, from taxis for transfers to food boxes with basics such as milk! After a long journey all you want is a cuppa and not knowing where to buy milk from this was just such a lovely way to start the stay. Especially with the scones!’
Cornwall Hugs’ tiny team is busy booking in more guests for May half-term and at the end of August. The charity will also be in encouraging Cornish schools and workplaces to ‘Go Green For Grenfell’ around the time of the second anniversary of the fire, June 14th, as so many did last year. Anyone interested to support should visit: www.cornwallhugsgrenfell.org where you can find information on how to pledge accommodation, services or funds online. You can follow the charity on Facebook and other social media via @CornwallHugs
Note to editors:
Cornwall Hugs Grenfell is part of 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 398 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 as well as by individuals, choirs and churches throughout Cornwall and beyond.
Esmé Page via firstname.lastname@example.org