More than 30 Red Cross volunteers have been deployed since the incident started - ©MattPercival/BrtishRedCross

Dozens of Red Cross volunteers have been helping since the fire –
©MattPercival/BritishRedCross

“The community spirit is incredible, absolutely incredible,” said Phil Osler, reflecting on the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower fire in West London.

“There is a constant stream of people coming in with offers of help – clothing, toiletries, food – everybody coming together, regardless of background or religion.

“At one point I was talking to a rabbi, an imam, and a pastor. Everyone is there for one thing and that is to help.”

Phil, a British Red Cross emergency response volunteer, was awoken around 4am on Wednesday morning by a phone call saying his help was needed.

The 61-year-old was among the first cohort of Red Cross volunteers to arrive at a rest centre, in north Kensington, for people affected by the devastating fire.

The role of Red Cross volunteers in such a scenario can entail many different things, but it’s always important not to assume anything when helping those affected, according to Phil.

“When we got to the rest centre we set about talking to people, making sure they had plenty of water and drinks,” he explained.

“The main thing is listening. You may think you know what someone needs, but you don’t. Only they know, so you ask them, and you listen really carefully to what they say.

“It may be you think they need clothing, or this and that, but when you listen to them, what they really need at that moment is a cup of tea and someone to talk to.”

‘Tsunami of emotion’

At its peak, there were around 200 people in the rest centre on Walmer Road. Many had lost their homes and all their possessions.

Others were desperately seeking news about missing loved ones.

grenfell-fire-volunteer-2

Dozens more people were in the road outside, trying to get information and help.

The smouldering tower, a few hundred metres down the road, continued to throw up smoke, ash and debris.

“It was pandemonium around the front of the rest centre. The world’s media is there, people are crying, shouting, they are exhausted and anxious,” said Dara Leonard, a volunteer with the Red Cross’ London emergency response team, and on-site team leader.

“It can be easy to think: ‘how are we going to manage this?’ But it is the type of scenario that we train and prepare for with local authorities and emergency services.

“The first thing we bear in mind is that we are there to support people – listening to what they say. Sometimes that means letting them vent, on occasions it is a tsunami of emotion.”

Red Cross volunteers helped out at four rest centres in the area, which have now been consolidated into one large rest centre. In total, around 400 people received help at the centres on Wednesday.

To date, 48 Red Cross volunteers have been deployed since the incident started.

“This is a very close-knit community and there is incredible community spirit on show,” said Dara, who was also involved in our response to the London Bridge attack.

“We have people in the rest centre who don’t have anywhere else to go. Others simply want to stay together as a community until they can figure things out.

“We’re working to support them through grief, anger and even tension – although it is their own resilience that will be a lasting memory.”

Dave Leonard pictured at a voluntary sector event - © LukeDillon/VSCD

Dara Leonard pictured at a voluntary sector event – © LukeDillon/VSCD