Whalley man’s part in refugee aid collection

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An aid collection is being staged tomorrow (Saturday) at Ewood Park, Blackburn, by a group which a Ribble Valley father helped to set up in response to the escalating refugee crisis in Europe and the Middle East.

Ben Kenyon (29), of Whalley, set up The East Lancs Refugee Solidarity Aid Collection movement alongside Ash Mowbray (27), of Blackburn.

“We did not know each other beforehand,” explained Ben, “but met on the internet on a campaign group and decided to start a group collecting aid and donations across East Lancashire.

“We had been following the growing crisis in Syria for several months, where seven million people have been displaced within the country and another four million fled to neighbouring states and across Europe.

“But what propelled us into action was seeing the heart-breaking image of little Aylan Kurdi’s lifeless body face down on a Turkish beach.”

Drop-offs have so far been staged in Clitheroe and at the town’s Rose and Crown pub, at the Usha Restaurant, Burnley, and at the Bureau, Blackburn, to be shipped out directly to families in Syria, and refugees living in the camps in Calais as well.

Ben explained: “They have all been very successful and well supported by local people who have given us mountains of donations. We have been taken-aback by the boundless generosity and selflessness of people from across East Lancashire and it is really inspiring to see people doing all they can to help refugees – many who are mothers, fathers, teachers, doctors and football coaches just like us.”

There is a list of what items are being collected on the group’s Facebook page. It includes things like warm winter clothes and waterproofs, sturdy footwear, trainers and wellies, underwear and socks, sleeping bags and camping gear, toiletries and hygiene products and non-perishable sustenance, tinned food, rice, pasta and flour.

The group’s collection tomorrow is between 9-30 am and 2 pm at Ewood Park, Darwen End Stand, Nuttall Street, Blackburn, BB2 4JF. There is free parking and for further details visit the group’s Facebook page: East Lancs Refugee Solidarity.

“With myself being a new father you cannot help but think of your own children when seeing horrific and tragic scenes like this,” added Ben. “Thinking about what this poor child must have gone through as fled across the Mediterranean where he drowned – and indeed what thousands more have suffered making this dangerous crossing away from the horrors of ISIS, President Assad’s regime and the civil war that is tearing the country apart.

“Half of those four million people that have fled Syria are children, so it really hits home. But it’s not just Syrians – this is a global crisis with displaced peoples fleeing persecution, war and oppression in countries like Afghanistan, Sudan and Eritrea. These people have nothing and many Governments are turning their backs to their plight.

“We felt we could no longer watch these shocking images unfolding on the TV without taking some kind of action.”

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Ben and Ash with some of the aid that has been donated. (s)