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The Hummingbird Project

Judy Brown

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High PeakRefugeesSyriaJo GregoryPamela Meade LakeBuxtonHummingbird ProjectAid

The Hummingbird Project in Buxton is helping refugees and raising awareness of their needs.

Refugees have been fleeing Syria in thousands. They risk everything to escape, but even if they reach a refugee camp in Europe they find terrible conditions there too. ‘We saw the plight of the orphans and desperate families and couldn’t turn our backs on it,’ say Jo Gregory from Glossop and Pamela Meade Lake from Buxton. ‘These people have nothing: they need clothes, food, healthcare supplies; essentials we take for granted. We decided the most direct way to help would be to send them these things. So we started the Hummingbird Project to channel aid straight to refugees and raise awareness of their needs.’ 

Jo and Pam

Jo and Pam met last October through Facebook. ‘We realised we shared the same goals and could achieve so much more together than separately. Never enough, but a step towards it. The Hummingbird name comes from an African story about tiny hummingbirds trying to put out a forest fire by bringing beakfuls of water: “It may be only tiny drops, but we are doing the best we can.” Thanks to social media, the whole project has taken off.’ 

Soon people all over the country were offering donations of money and goods. Locals brought clothes and bedding by the carload. ‘We’ve been overwhelmed by people’s generosity,’ says Pam. ‘We just want to make life better for refugees, and the Hummingbird Project provides a practical, non-political, wholly humanitarian way to do it.’ 

Donors range from schoolchildren to pensioners. Schools have collected hundreds of soft toys for refugee children through the TeddyAid campaign (www.teddyaid.com); other groups have held coffee mornings, sponsored walks, cake sales and more. Supermarkets have hosted displays; local businesses have donated surplus stock. Cash donations can help to pay for transport, which is shared with groups sending collections from other regions of the UK. The goods go directly to refugee reception centres on the Greek islands or at Calais.  As for premises, the Green Man Gallery in Buxton provided floor-space to start with, until Pam and Jo negotiated six months’ rent-free lease on a vacant shop at 1 London Road, Buxton. Donated goods now cram the shop and its cellar, and are briskly sorted, packed or sold by a cheerful team of volunteers. ‘Within the first 12 weeks, we had raised over £7,000 and sent four tonnes of supplies. And the momentum keeps on growing,’ says Pam.

Just some of the generous donations

So does the need. With no end in sight to the refugee crisis, temporary holding areas are becoming longer-term encampments. These need schools, mosques and health centres as well as shelter and sanitation. Because Jo and Pam are in direct contact with aid workers in the camps as well as donors in the UK, they can respond to changing priorities by appealing for particular types of equipment or money for special causes. Recent campaigns, for example, have produced truckloads of tents, sleeping bags and baby carriers and raised funds for the Greek volunteer lifeguards who patrol the coastline. At the same time, demand continues for warm, good-as-new coats and jumpers; shoes, socks and boots; new underwear; nappies, wipes and baby food; and cash donations. Goods that can’t be sent overseas are sold in the shop. 

With collectors and drop-off points in Glossop, Marple and Stockport as well as Buxton, the Hummingbird Project gathers aid from across the High Peak. To contact Jo and Pam or find out more about what’s needed and how to donate, visit the Hummingbird page on Facebook or the website at www.hummingbirdproject.co.uk, or call at 1 London Road, Buxton on Mondays or Fridays 12– 4pm or Saturdays 11am–3pm.