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PR 31 Cornwall Hugs Welcomes 500th Guest on Walk & Talk Holiday

PRESS RELEASE - October 16, 2023


Thank you Team Cornwall!


Cornwall Hugs’ 500th Guest on charity’s first ‘Walk & Talk’ Holiday


The charity, Cornwall Hugs, set up to offer respite to those affected by Grenfell Tower Fire, this week welcomed 17 new guests to its first ‘Walk & Talk’ holiday by the ocean. This holiday brings the total welcomed to Cornwall through the charity to 516. It was created specially for survivors and bereaved pensioners and their support workers who meet weekly for two hours to walk and talk in Kensington. Designed to support mental and physical well-being and re-forge community, this Cornwall Hugs holiday focussed on older guests many of whom live alone, giving them the opportunity to all stay near each other for the week in the village of Mousehole. Mohamed Ragab (84), the oldest in the party, was celebrated at Land’s End as the 500th guest welcomed by the charity.


Grenfell Tower Fire, on June 14, 2017, claimed 72 lives, leaving the community devastated by trauma and complicated grief. Mohamed, himself, lived close to the Tower and witnessed the fire first hand. He lost his disabled nephew, Hesham Rahman, who lived on the highest floor and who he described as like a son to him.


Mohamed (84), a keen walker before the tragedy, was determined to take part in all the walks including the cliff path from Sennen to Land’s End. He also crossed the causeway to St Michael’s Mount where the group was welcomed by Lord St Levan before climbing the steep cobbled path to the castle. Half way up, the guests discovered the ‘giant’s heart’ where, hand on heart, they listened to it beat and then placed a Grenfell green heart badge on the stone. Mohamed said he valued being away from the tower, Cornish kindness and new friendships, “I have spent my whole life living next to the tower and this is the first holiday in a long time where I could relax with friends and remember my nephew. I have been able to reflect on my life and my nephew.” Mohamed returned with new resolve to re-start his daily walks.


Founder Esmé Page said, “Walk & Talk is such a valuable community-building concept but with a week together, the natural therapy of the ocean and everyone staying doors away from each other, all the benefits are intensified. There’s a deeper listening that can happen when you walk side by side, especially by the sea. People have felt able to share what’s on their heart and when it’s painful, it’s as if the rumbling waves hold witness, giving space to simply be and reflect.”


Anne-Marie Murphy, lost her brother Denis in the fire and brought four generations of her family to Cornwall, including Denis’ mother, Anne, now in her eighties. The timing of the holiday was significant, including what would have been Denis’ birthday. Working with their longtime partner, Penlee Lifeboat, Cornwall Hugs organised a short memorial at sea for the families. After a Celtic Blessing, the families cast white roses into the water as Cox, Patch Harvey, respectfully circled the lifeboat off Penlee point. Later, everyone gathered in the crew house with a cake to celebrate Denis’ life. Esmé reflected, “Patch and his crew has now welcomed over 100 of our Grenfell guests and we are deeply grateful to them and the RNLI. Their quiet understanding of community tragedy and grief is healing in itself.”


Anne-Marie said,  “Being near the sea and near water has meant a lot to us because we lost our loved one and it was in fire. Being able to connect with the ocean and nature has been so therapeutic and to be able to share my beloved brother Denis birthday with you all out at sea was truly special.’”


Cornish inspiration and hospitality by Cornwall Chamber members

Support for Cornwall Hugs and its guests is still strong and this holiday was enabled by holiday accommodation offered by individuals and by over a dozen local businesses. Guests enjoyed fish and chips from Lewis’, pasties from Aunty May’s and a free ice cream from Jelbert’s, with one guest exclaiming, “This is the real thing - the best ice cream ever!”


The holiday included coastal and cultural walks, a highlight being an inspiring tour of Tremenheere Sculpture Park by creator Dr Neil Armstrong. Steve Crummay, of Explore in Cornwall, led two wildlife walks, including that from Sennen to Land’s End, where there was an opportunity to celebrate the 500th guest milestone at the iconic signpost, before a sumptuous lunch, donated by Cornwall Chamber member, Land’s end Hotel. 


Jessie Leigh, Board Director, Cornwall Chamber, and longtime Cornwall Hugs supporter attended the farewell dinner for guests and hosts in the King’s Arm’s, Paul, hosted by Kate Price, People Director at St Austell Brewery. Jessie commented, “Cornwall is a place of sanctuary and world-class hospitality. It is an absolute pleasure for the Chamber to celebrate all our members who have helped give over 500 Grenfell guests a breath of fresh Cornish air - St Austell Brewery, Lynher Dairies, Lands End Hotel and Aspects Holidays to name a few on this trip, with many more who’ve enabled Cornwall Hugs’ vital work in the last six years.”


Guests then assembled on departure day for a photo by the ‘Grenfell Street 💚’ sign in Mousehole, unveiled in 2019 to mark the solidarity between Grenfell and Cornwall.


Lasting legacy as walkers return to London

Many guests returned to London vowing to walk and explore more, Esmé commented, “The most wonderful thing this last 24 hours, has been to receive photos from our new friends, already out walking in London. We hope the holiday will have a lasting legacy of confidence and connection inspired by shared Cornish memories - #keepwalking!”


Another guest, a survivor, (who prefers not to be named), commented on her new confidence, “The friendship among my group touched me, having more friends whom I can talk to and who understand what I am going through. I feel like I am in a different phase now - more open, stronger and calm facing my challenges in life.”


Thank you Cornwall from Cornwall Hugs and Grenfell guests

“I never imagined we’d welcome so many but the ongoing provision is simply miraculous. People really ‘get’ that healing from trauma and grief takes time and that Cornish sanctuary can play a unique part in that. Now, celebrating our 500th guest it feels like a moment to say an enormous THANK YOU TEAM CORNWALL!’ Esmé Page


Anne Murphy, now in her eighties, who lost her son Denis in the fire commented, “The memory of love and kindness and welcome will stay in my mind and heart forever. Thank you wonderful, lovely Cornish people!”


Her daughter Anne-Marie Murphy reflected, “Our hearts have been broken by the event son the Grenfell Tower Fire but for this week you have been able to make our hearts smile. The warmth and love we have felt from you all in Cornwall is immeasurable.”




MEDIA CONTACT / IMAGES






IMAGES

Info in the file names. 

Credit: Cornwall Hugs (unless otherwise indicated in file name)


500th guest Mohamed Ragab in front of Lands End and in Mousehole

Cornwall Hugs guests walking from Sennen to Land’s End

Guests celebrating Cornwall Hugs 500 guest milestone at Land’s End Signpost

Cornwall Hugs guests on coastal path with St Michael’s Mount in background

Cornwall Hugs guests at Giant’s Heart on St Michael’s Mount

Cornwall Hugs guests on board Penlee Lifeboat for memorial at sea




 

Cornwall Hugs (UK charity #1177796) was founded by Esmé Page in response to Grenfell Tower Fire and began with a facebook post six days after the tragedy, which claimed 72 lives and is recorded as the largest residential disaster in the UK since WW11. Public support was immediate and through the project, ‘Cornwall Hugs Grenfell’ has now welcomed 516 survivors, bereaved, displaced neighbours and firefighters to Cornwall for week-long respite holidays. The charity is volunteer-led and its work has been enabled by ongoing support from over 250 businesses as well as by 1000’s of individuals, choirs and churches throughout Cornwall and beyond. cornwallhugsgrenfell.org

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