Polly Gifford, Hastings Supports Refugees.
It’s amazing what can happen over four hours in Hastings Town Centre!
Hastings Supports Refugees set up their stall outside Debenhams on Saturday 24 November, in front of a huge advert for their Black Friday Spectacular. But a different set of values was guiding us that day. This was a genuine give-away. Over half a ton of food was given away by the people of Hastings in aid of the Hastings Foodbank and refugees in need in and around Calais.
It was a day of great generosity. People of all ages and all backgrounds came with bags of food and bags of goodwill. Some people weren’t able to buy food to donate so gave us money instead (and we did a huge shop at Aldi to spend it!). When it started to rain, someone turned up with a gazebo. At the end of the afternoon the man from the fishing tackle stall next to us donated a pile of jumpers he hadn’t sold.
We were also collecting for the Red Box Project, which is part of a national initiative, to collect items and relieve period poverty for young women in Hastings. Our red box was soon full to the top, and we continued to fill another large bag with the items donated.
Many people stopped for a chat and wanted to talk about the issues behind the continuing plight of refugees in Europe and the huge rise in the use of Foodbanks here in the UK. Many had come down to the Town Centre just for this event, some from as far afield as Robertsbridge. People signed Hastings Community of Sanctuary pledge forms – declaring their support for our town being a place of welcome and sanctuary for anyone fleeing persecution (you can sign the Pledge here).
At one point a young boy was looking at the Black Friday Spectacular poster and asked whether this was the day everyone was particularly nice to black people. A child’s naïve interpretation maybe, but this was a day when people showed their concern for those different from themselves in the face of the huge negativity that surrounds these issues.
At the end of the afternoon we loaded up one van for the Foodbank and another that will head to Calais (with thanks to our drivers Pauline and Jo). Thanks to everyone who volunteered on the day and to everyone who donated, no matter how much or how little.
If you’d like to organise a collection then do get in touch via the Facebook page.