Newtownabbey community bands together to help refugees

Bagging up donations in Ballyduff: Stephanie McVicker, Mark Cosgrove, Tommy Mooney and playgroup pupils Kamryn and Lewis. INNT36-208-AM
Bagging up donations in Ballyduff: Stephanie McVicker, Mark Cosgrove, Tommy Mooney and playgroup pupils Kamryn and Lewis. INNT36-208-AM

A group of volunteers from Newtownabbey have come together to collect clothing and other supplies for refugees stranded in Europe.

The action comes in response to the shocking humanitarian crisis, which has seen tens of thousands of people flee their homes in war-torn countries such as Syria and Iraq and make their way to Europe.

Under the stewardship of Newtownabbey residents Austin Tanney, Helen Callaghan and Deirdre Mathews, the Newtownabbey Calais Refugee Society met on Friday evening (September 4) to discuss the best way to help the refugees.

The group decided that they should open a number of drop-off centres for members of the community to leave in donations, with the first collection taking place at the Mayfield Village Hall on Sunday, September 6.

The details of the drop-off were published on the group’s Facebook page, but the organisers did not expect the tremendous response they received - a response which saw Ballyduff Community Centre also having to be used as an overflow storage depot.

“The response from the local community was just incredible. In the first hour and a half we filled 300 boxes,” Deirdre explained.

“We are overwhelmed with the support that was shown,” she said.

The group will be sending the items of clothing to refugee camps in Calais, Hungary, Greece and other projects throughout Europe. Charities here in Northern Ireland are also set to benefit from the clothing donations.

“A lot of the items will be transported to Cork where they will then be shipped to Calais. We will also be donating to homeless people and refugees who are already here in Northern Ireland. While the Newtownabbey community are being so generous, we want to take the opportunity to help people here at home too,” Deirdre added.

Deirdre revealed that without the help and support of the community, the collections would not have been a success.

“Without the local community getting behind the campaign, we would not have got off the ground. It was the volunteers and people donating, who made it such a success,” she said.

The society, which is urging people to make donations to Oxfam, Trocaire, Christian Aid and The Red Cross, is keen to hear from any individuals, groups or sports clubs who could help out as volunteers at future drop-off sessions, details of which will be published on the Newtownabbey Calais Refugee Society Facebook page.

Deirdre also urged people to log on to the Northern Ireland Calais Refugee Solidarity Facebook page to learn more about the ongoing crisis and what they can do to help.

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