On 24 May, over 25 people gathered at St George’s Catholic Centre, Taunton, to hear how they can respond to the refugee crisis. Speakers from CAFOD in partnership with RAFT and Taunton Welcomes Refugees shared the activities going on locally and internationally to help displaced individuals across the world.
Elizabeth Baldwin from CAFOD invited the audience to show solidarity with refugees and take part in unique events involving the Lampedusa Cross; handmade crosses carved by Italian carpenter, Francisco Tuccio, from the driftwood of capsized refugee boats.
Download our resources on the Lampedusa Cross pilgrimage
Pope Francis carried a Lampedusa cross at a memorial service for those who had died and one of the crosses is being displayed in the British Museum. Mr Tuccio has now gifted some of his crosses to CAFOD as a symbol for communities in England and Wales who are responding to the refugee crisis. This may be by completing pilgrimages and sharing messages of welcome, hope and love, which will be shared with refugees in November.
“It was a lovely evening and the compassion shown by the people in Taunton for those suffering is extraordinary. This is a very real way of showing solidarity and letting those who have been forced from their homes know that we do care.”
“Many of us feel the same sentiment that the carpenter Francesco Tuccio has spoken of, that feeling of ‘what can I do to make a difference?’
CAFOD is working with local partner organisations in Europe and beyond to provide practical help to those fleeing their homes, calling on the UK government to take a fair and proportionate share of refugees – from both within and outside the European Union – and pushing for the establishment of safe and legal routes to enable refugees to reach safety.
Taunton Welcomes Refugees explained how they are welcoming refugee families. They work with councillors to offer sanctuary to refugees and have trained more than 30 groups with the skills to support them. They have recently welcomed a refugee family to the area.
Fran Hick, representative from Taunton Welcomes Refugees said:
“With statutory and voluntary organisations working together, we have the ability to put pressure on the government and show them a resettlement programme can work.”
Refugee Aid from Taunton (RAFT) emerged as a reaction to what was happening on the news and was set up through Facebook. The entirely voluntary organisation collect and sort aid and send it to refugee camps across the world. They now have so many donations, they occupy a warehouse four days a week and have so far shipped 68 loads to help people across the world.
Esther, a representative from RAFT said:
“We have been overwhelmed by the constant stream of generosity, I keep thinking the aid is going to dry up but it never does. There is such a variety of donations; the other day, a farmer showed up to the warehouse with a trailer from a village who had a massive collection and quite often we have Grandmas show up with hand knitted baby clothes; it really brings a tear to your eye.
“The volunteers are all amazing, but we are always short of volunteers. There is something for everyone to do, you can just show up to the warehouse and there will be a job for you! Even if it is just liking or sharing our Facebook posts, it means so much.”
Contact RAFT: facebook.com/RAFTtaunton