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From Haworth to Calais

How West Lane Baptist Church in Haworth, West Yorkshire and its community are helping refugees in Calais. By Nick Drury

Jungle campThe refugee crisis has been the bedrock of the news and media for much of the year, and the question we’ve asked ourselves as a church and community is what we in Haworth can do to help those people over 300 miles away in Calais, without using the distance as an excuse to not act?

I started as a Student Minister at West Lane in Haworth in September, and during this time there’ve been numerous fundraising initiatives and projects set up for helping the refugees in Calais, both through the churches in Haworth and also the wider community too.

In September under the banner of ‘Churches Together in Haworth’ we helped set up and publicise a collection point for different items such as tents and sleeping bags to be donated then passed on to one of the charities linked with the refugees in Calais. We offered to collect heavier or numerous items too, and built up quite a mountain in the pews of the local parish church.

In October we plugged and advertised an auction event set up within the community where all of the money raised would go to charities for the refugees. Everything to be auctioned was donated by local businesses, and ranged from afternoon tea for two, to a professional sculpture. This event was extremely successful and raised £6,500 across three different charities.

In addition, a few months ago the community started fundraising for the ‘Worth Valley Tent Project’. This is where a European Company is producing eight-man UNHCR style tents designed for the conditions in Calais, and a page has been set up to raise funding for these; http://gogetfunding.com/provide-shelters-to-migrants-in-calais/ So far more than £1,600 has been raised through different initiatives, which is enough for three of these winterised tents.

In early November I accompanied two others from another church, in a van loaded with items to distribute to the refugees. In the lead up to this we had done some fundraising and received donations that had been listed as required by a charity in Calais.

One initiative we set up was to have a ‘Super Sock Sunday’ at our church where people either bought or donated socks to take down to Calais. This worked really well as socks were something everyone could give and get involved in, regardless of their financial position.

The Calais trip had an obvious impact for the refugees, however, through reporting about it in a number of local newspapers and magazines, and focussing services around the experience and exploring the question of what it means for us to do ‘mission’, further awareness has been raised too. After Calais I was also asked to share at the local Labour Party about the experience to help them explore what they can be doing to bring aid to these people.

There’s also a committee of people from the area that’s been formed recently and it’s discussing how we can help refugee families who get placed in the Bradford area in the near future. Our plans are to team up with the organisation designated by the Government to house these families, and to offer whatever services we as a community can provide – ranging from dentistry and medical care, to befriending and help with accounts. If this happens we will be exploring as church what role we can play in getting alongside and helping these refugees.

Picture: Layton Thompson/Bible Society

Nick Drury is the student minister at West Lane Baptist Church

This story originally appeared on the Yorkshire Baptist Association website and is used with permission

Baptist Times, 06/01/2016
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