Jane Grimshaw, co-founder of Hastings Supports Refugees, honoured in local newspaper.
Foreword, Felicity Laurence, Chair HCoS
Jane Grimshaw has been honoured as a ‘Community Ledge’ in her hometown of Hastings. Jane co-founded Hastings Support Refugees (HSR) in 2015, and since then has led many initiatives, masterminding huge collections of aid sent from here to Calais and Greece to help refugees who continue to suffer appalling conditions across Europe. Her attention is also directed towards our town, and these collections of food have also included large donations to the food bank in Hastings.
HSR gave rise to Hastings Community of Sanctuary (HCoS) and the Hastings Buddy Project, in both of which Jane also plays a central role. She is on the Hastings and Rother Buddy Project Organising Committee, and an active buddy with a specialty in collecting and distributing everything imaginable needed by the families coming to resettle in our town, and she is on Hastings Community of Sanctuary Steering Group. She has organised many workshops for people seeking refuge here, based around her professional expertise as a costume designer and maker, and other events – including several pop-up boutiques where people can go and find lovely clothes donated with love and accepted with dignity. She has represented our Community of Sanctuary at the annual Sanctuary in Parliamentary event, and is part of our team who met from time to time with our former MP Amber Rudd to discuss our concerns about different aspects of Home Office policy.
Jane organised the vigil held at the Mosque in solidarity with and mourning for the people murdered in the attacks on mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand in 2019. 300 people came to that vigil, at short notice in the middle of the day – a powerful indication of the spirit of solidarity in our town, which Jane herself exemplifies in such an outstanding manner.
Like so many involved in these groups, Jane contributes all of this on a voluntary basis, in her case alongside running a hectic professional career and a family.
Here is her story.
In 2015 when the refugee crisis broke, the world mourned after the body of Alan Kurdi was washed up on a beach in Greece and people were shocked to see the squalid conditions within the Calais “jungle”. A group of like-minded strangers joined a conversation on a local Facebook forum. Our main concern was “what can we do to help?”. The end result of this was the forming of Hastings Supports Refugees. We set up a dedicated Facebook page for the ten or so of us to exchange ideas and work out ways to help. Within a week we had 150 members and by the end of the month we had 650. That number has steadily grown over the past 4 ½ years till we are now over 1600.
The main aim at Hastings Supports Refugees is to fundraise to help support organisations working on the ground in refugee camps. In the early days we raised money for shelters to be built, before its demolition, in the Calais Jungle; we provided the seed money for a then unnamed and embryonic organisation that became the Refugee Youth Service, working with unaccompanied minors in camps across Europe. We regularly support the work of both Care4calais and Refugee Biryani and Bananas, both with monetary and physical donations.
Each year we organise a food drive for Calais and the Hastings Food bank. The first year we held it outside Debenhams in the town centre with choirs singing and people dancing. We collected one metric ton of food aid that was sent to Calais and over 1500 meals for the food bank. Hastings is an amazing and generous town and over the years has never ceased to amaze me with its response to any given crisis.
Our main fundraising event each year is Festival by the Lake, now in its 4th year. Held at Ashburnham Place during Refugee Week, this year on Sunday 21st June, it is a time to celebrate our diverse community, with refugees and asylum seekers who are settled locally playing an important role. A day of music, art, food and swimming in the lake.
In 2018 Hastings Supports Refugees was instrumental in our town joining the national City of Sanctuary network and helping set up the Refugee Buddy Scheme. Hastings is a Home Office dispersal area for asylum seekers; this plus the highly successful Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement scheme means high levels of support are needed locally.
We have come a long way since 2015; I have learnt more than I ever though I would need to know about the horrors of conditions in camps the world over. I have seen and read things that can’t be unseen or forgotten. People have come and people have gone from our trusty core group; it’s exhausting work and sometimes it feels as though we are putting a sticky plaster on a haemorrhage.
The Government are unsympathetic to the plight of refugees and the cause is no longer as newsworthy as it was. But this does not mean the war in Syria is over, or that the situation in Afghanistan or Iran, Sudan or Eritrea to name but a few is any better. So, Hastings Supports Refugees continues its work trying in any small way we can to help alleviate the suffering of our fellow human beings who through quirks of fate and geography find themselves in situations we can’t even begin to imagine.
If you are interested in the work Hastings Supports Refugees does you can find us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1653085608261243/
Hastings Independent Press article here: https://www.hastingsindependentpress.co.uk/community/community-ledge-9-jane-grimshaw/