Registered charity status!

West Berks Action for Refugees is now a registered charity! Registered in England & Wales as a Charitable Incorporated Organisation (CIO), registered charity number 1169329.

Our charitable objects are:

1. TO PROVIDE RELIEF FOR REFUGEES, ASYLUM SEEKERS AND DESTITUTE MIGRANTS IN THE UNITED KINGDOM AND OVERSEAS WHO ARE IN CONDITIONS OF NEED, HARDSHIP, SICKNESS OR DISTRESS, THROUGH THE PROVISION OF AID, PHYSICAL GOODS, SUPPORT AND ADVICE.
2. TO RELIEVE POVERTY AND HARDSHIP AMONG HOMELESS PEOPLE IN WEST BERKSHIRE, IN PARTICULAR BY PROVIDING GOODS AND SERVICES TO CHARITIES OR OTHER ORGANISATIONS WORKING TO RELIEVE POVERTY AND HARDSHIP AMONG SUCH PEOPLE.

It’s been a long road to get this status. Thanks to everyone for their support.

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Maternal Care Pack making-up morning!

As part of our urgent appeal for maternal care packs for desperate refugee mothers in northern Greece, we’re holding a Making-up Morning on 30th April.

Saturday 30th April
9.30am-12noon
Newbury Baptist Church, Cheap Street, Newbury

Come along and help us make up maternal care packs for desperate refugee mothers in northern Greece!

Bring along finished packs you’ve already made up, half-finished packs or individual bits you’ve bought, and help us make up as many packs as possible.

We’re planning to have some refreshments to keep our volunteers going. Cake donations welcomed!

Thank you!

Here is the Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/110403876031398/

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URGENT APPEAL: Help a mother & baby in crisis

You’ve just given birth in a tent in a foreign country. You can’t go back to your home. You have next to nothing with you.

What would you do? What would you need to be able to survive?

 

Hope & Aid Direct are now taking a convoy to northern Greece on 9th May (last collection day for West Berks is 4th May) and we want to put as many maternal care packs on that convoy as possible. These packs are given to mothers of babies and women about to give birth by Nurture Project International, an NGO providing a sanctuary for these women in their mother & baby tents, and supporting safe infant feeding in a desperate situation. Around 14,000 people are stuck at Idomeni near the Greek border with Macedonia, and about half are women and children, including pregnant women and newborn babies.

Can you put a pack together to help a mother and baby in need? Can you buy some items to donate to help us put more packs together?

Donations Needed

1. For Mother

bottled water
high energy food (dates, high calorie protein bar, RUTF – must be halal)
light scarf, headscarf
Hygiene Kit (in plastic bag):  sanitary pads, hand sanitizer, sanitizing wipes, tissue packet, soap, toothbrush and toothpaste, comb

2. For Baby (please label outside of bag with age and gender of child)

nappies & wipes
sleeper suit
socks
hat
baby blanket & small soft toy

3. For children (1 year+)

shorts, summer trousers, t-shirts and sunhats – all in good, clean condition.

4. General

large handbags, backpacks, baby carriers, push chairs
maternity & breast pads,
light-weight maternity clothes
anything for a mother’s hospital birth bag

Please no formula, mother teas, galactagogues (food/herb that increases production of breast milk) , bottles, pacifiers, medicines, nipple creams, breast pumps, or food for the baby.

Please do not include any money or personal information.

If you would prefer to make a financial donation you can do this here: https://www.gofundme.com/refugeeaidberks

 

Drop off points

Drop-off packs and donations at:

NEWBURY: Vets4Pets, Greenham Rd, Newbury Times: 8.30am – 7pm Mon – Fri, 9am – 5pm Sat.

EAST GARSTON: Hillsprings, East Garston, RG17 7HW. Call 01488 648534 first if possible.

For alternative times/days, please call 07894 967164 or check the West Berkshire Action for Refugees Facebook page updates.

 

Volunteer Help Needed

We also need volunteers for 3 different things…

1. Act as local collection points or organise local collections, e.g. at schools. We are asking that anyone who does this takes on the task of rejecting inappropriate donations,  sorting what they are given and bringing donations to the store at Vets4Pets, Greenham Road, Newbury.

2. Help sorting and packing at the Vets4Pets store on: Thursday 21st from 12.30-2.30, Friday 22nd from 9.30-11.30, Saturday 23rd from 9 (call 07894 967164 to check end time), Tuesday 26th from 12.30-2.30, Thursday 28th from 12.30-2.30, Friday 29th from 9.30-11.30 and Tuesday 3rd from 12-2.30. A bag packing morning is being organised for Saturday 30th, venue TBC

3. Picking up banana boxes and taking them to Vets4Pets. We use the Fyffes-style ones with the slide-on lids. We have found that Sainsburys generally have them out, so if you shop there, please check every time and pick up as many as you can.

We have 2 1/2 weeks to make this happen! Thank you!

Socks for the Sole & Buggies for Babies

Donations unloaded at the warehouse
Rachel Birch, Asta Von Stackelberg, Steve Lennon (from Hope & Aid Direct), Charles Storer (Chief Exec of Hope & Aid Direct) and Lindsey Middlemiss at the warehouse in Calais with unloaded boxes of aid

Last week, we delivered a lorryload of aid to support refugees and destitute migrants in Calais and Dunkirk, including food, socks collected by local primary school pupils and buggies for babies and toddlers in refugee camps.

 

Our group West Berks Action for Refugees organised the delivery of aid, which was 50% donations from residents of West Berkshire and surrounding areas, and 50% donations from the Slough warehouse of CalAid, with British NGO Hope & Aid Direct providing the lorry without charge.

While group founder Lindsey Middlemiss has been to Calais and Dunkirk before as a volunteer, this was the first time on such a trip for local nurse Rachel Birch, musician John Kane and mum Asta von Stackelberg, who organised a sock collection at her local school in the Hendreds, South Oxon.

 

Lindsey and Rachel in the Jungle
Rachel & Lindsey in the Calais Jungle

Lindsey said:

 

“Going to a refugee camp or the Calais ‘Jungle’ with volunteers for the first time always brings home how shocking it is. With the Jungle, you’re standing in an unsanitary shanty town, that you might expect in a developing country in Africa or South America, but you’re just minutes from the British border. It is very surreal. There are thousands of people and hundreds of children, including many unaccompanied children, live there without being properly cared for.

Having been to the hell of the old camp at Dunkirk, it is good to see how conditions have been improved in Dunkirk over the last 2 months, but even there, the situation is still pretty desperate. The stony ground in the camp is unsafe for small children, so parents were desperately grateful for a donated pushchair. Other donations were gratefully received by the volunteers at the warehouse, so huge thanks to everyone who donated, collected and helped us pack it all up properly.”

 

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Lindsey Middlemiss, Rachel Birch, Steve Lennon (from Hope & Aid Direct), John Kane and Asta Von Stackelberg with a refugee family who had just received a donated buggy. The families faces have been blurred for their protection

URGENT Aid Collection for France

In response to an increased need in Calais and Dunkirk, following the destruction of a large part of the Calais Jungle camp and the relocation of the Dunkirk camp, we’re going to be doing a big run to Calais next month. Hope & Aid Direct have offered the use of one of their 7.5tonne lorries, which means we can get a lot more out far more effectively than in cars.

We will be opening up donations for a very specific list of items for the next 4 weeks only. In order to manage this in the short amount of time we have, we need as many volunteers as possible to help in 3 ways:

1. Act as local collection points or organise local collections, e.g. at schools. We are asking that anyone who does this takes on the task of rejecting inappropriate donations, sorting what they are given (either packing it into single item banana boxes or into single items bags – e.g. a bag just of thick blankets, a bag just of socks, etc) and bringing donations to the store at Vets4Pets, Greenham Road, Newbury.

2. Helping sorting and packing at the Vets4Pets store. We will also be opening up donations directly at the Vets4Pets store, but preferably on days we have volunteers there.

3. Picking up banana boxes and taking them to Vets4Pets. We use the Fyffes-style ones with the slide-on lids. We have found that Sainsburys generally have them out, so if you shop there, please check every time and pick up as many as you can.

The donations we are collecting are:
• foil blankets
• thick blankets, adult sized ONLY (NOT pram size)
• roll mats
• sleeping bags, ONLY in individual bags
• fire extinguishers
• torches, wind-up or with new batteries ONLY
• 130 litre strong bin bags
• Mens gloves
• backpacks (small for grab bags and large for possessions)
• mens thick socks, clean and in good condition
• Sizes 41, 42, 43 trainers, clean and in good condition
• Mens small and medium joggers, clean and in good condition

Food
o 1L oil
o 1kg rice
o 1kg sugar
o tinned fish (tuna, sardines, mackerel) in ring-pull tins
o tinned vegetables (tomatoes, chickpeas, kidney beans NOT baked beans) in ring-pull tins
o biscuit packets
o tea and coffee
o dried fruit and nuts
o vegetable stock cubes
o 1L UHT milk

It is vital that ONLY these donations are collected and that they are in good, clean condition, with all food in date.

Drop-off points:

SUNDAY 3 APRIL ONLY: St Nics church, donations to Joyce after morning and evening services (11.30am and 7.30pm)

NEWBURY: Vets4Pets on Greenham Rd, Newbury (call ahead if its a large amount). ALL listed donations.
Friday 1st 8.30-11.30am
Saturday 2nd 9am-5pm
Monday 4th April 11am to 1pm …
Tuesday 5th April 11am to 1pm
Friday 8th April 9.30-11.30am
Saturday 9th 9am-12pm

NEWBURY: Any day 7.30am-9pm. Aldens, 19 Pyle Hill, Greenham Rd, Newbury. FOOD ONLY.

EAST GARSTON: Any day. Hillsprings, East Garston, RG17 7HW. Call 01488 648534 first if possible. ALL listed donations.

LAMBOURN: Any day. Iveagh Cottage at Nugent Farm, Upper Lambourn, on the B4000. Call 01488 71250 if needed. ALL listed donations.

For alternative times/days, please call 07894 967164 or check the Facebook page updates. If you can act as a collection point, please let us know!

Thank you!

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Help us sort donations!

We’re instigating regular sorting sessions, so please come along and help if you have a spare hour or two.

Sessions are on:

Tuesdays 12.30-2.30pm

Fridays 9.30am-12.30pm

Venue:

Vets4Pets, Unit 3, Adlam Villas, Greenham Road, Newbury RG14 7HX

If you’re coming by car, please park in the Burger King Retail Park carpark and walk round the mini roundabout.

There is no need to register, and feel free to just rock up, but if you can let us know you’re planning to come along then we can try to make sure you get advance warning if there is a problem.

The storeroom can be cold and dim, so wrap up warm and, if it’s a dull day, bring a headtorch if you have one. It’s not really safe for small children on the move, but we’ve had plenty of older kids be really useful.

Humanitarian aid reaches Lesvos

Humanitarian aid collected in West Berkshire reached the Greek island of Lesvos last week and was distributed to where it was needed.

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Local group West Berks Action for Refugees worked with UK aid organization Hope and Aid Direct, who organized a four lorry convoy of needed humanitarian aid for Lesvos. One of those four lorries was filled with the generous donations of people in West Berkshire.

WP_20160116_13_10_28_ProLocal mum, doula and founder of West Berks Action for Refugees, Lindsey Middlemiss, travelled out to Lesvos to meet the convoy and help with the distribution of aid on the island. Lesvos is the third largest Greek island, with a population of around 86,000 people. In 2015, it received over half a million arrivals of people fleeing war and violence in Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere.

Lindsey said on returning from Lesvos:

“Reality hit when we arrived and I realized that the coast of Turkey is easily visible from the coast of Lesvos. Winter has not stopped the flow of boats but it has raised the risks. More and more families and children are now arriving, often arriving frozen and wet, fortunate if they have escaped drowning, hypothermia and frostbite.

Refugee children – mainly from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan – are prominent in every arriving boat and every departing ferryload. Our team came across some unaccompanied refugee children, such as the orphaned 13 year old boy who had sole charge of his 3 younger siblings.

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The people of Lesvos are doing so much to deal with the influx of arrivals, helped mainly by expats and volunteers from many nationalities. Some major NGOs – UNHCR, Save the Children, IRC – are present, but it was clear that it is volunteers taking the strain of providing humaniatarian aid to the arrivals, whether as medics on the beaches and in the camps, lifeguards and first responders on the shore, cooking food, distributing dry clothing or sorting aid donations.

Coming home I was saddened to learn that 3 lives were lost that day to hypothermia off Lesvos’ north shore, one of them a 4 year old boy. Losing arrivals to death by hypothermia or drowning is an ever present fear for those who work and volunteer on Lesvos. There are insufficient rescue patrols and many are forced to cross in unsafe weather conditions, inadequately dressed and in boats that are dangerous in themselves.

Getting the convoy of aid to Lesvos was impressive and I’m grateful to everyone who helped – from our local volunteers, through local businesses including Vets4Pets, Pickfords, Sainsbury and Camp Hopson, Thatcham Baptist Church to everyone who donated to help cover the costs of the convoy”

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West Berks Action for Refugees is not currently accepting further donations of general aid but are always in need of more volunteers to help sort donations. See West Berks Refugees on Facebook or www.westberksrefugees.org for more information and updates.