The incredible generosity in the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower fire has seen people from all walks of life volunteering to help. The British Red Cross drafted in trained volunteers from across the country to help. Three volunteers share their stories.
Debi Haden, 50, a psychosocial support team member, from Norfolk
When you see the enormity of the situation, you can’t be anything but compelled to do something. I can’t change what has happened, I can’t take away the feelings people are experiencing, or what they’ve seen.
But we can help people feel like they can get beyond the point where they are right now. We give them the opportunity to share their story – a cup of tea, a hug, a tissue.
On our first day we went into a couple of the hospitals to visit people affected. We have seen a lot of people who have children who are critically ill in hospital.
One of the challenging things is that children have witnessed the whole thing and have lost friends. Children have no boundaries so they say what they see. That’s quite difficult for the parents.
We encourage parents to get their children to talk about what they have seen if they want to. Some parents have felt like they can’t cry or show emotion in front of their children, but it’s okay to show their emotions.
What has been sad is that people who have witnessed the fire feel guilty or helpless, and they feel they have no right to feel the way they do because they are the lucky ones. We encourage them to share their story and feelings. We try to help them understand that how they’re feeling is a normal part of trauma.
Paul Welham, 35, emergency response volunteer, from Norfolk
Part of what we’re doing is going out into the community to tell people about the help they can get and giving them the information they need.
I spoke to one lady whose child was in a nursery in the tower. Since the fire, her child hasn’t been able to go to nursery, so the mother hasn’t been able to go to work as she has to look after her child.
If she’s not working, she can’t afford to buy food, so she’s coming to the community assistance centre to get food for her family. People are coming back every day to get help. They have lost everything.
I’ve been volunteering for 18 years. Every situation is different. Most emergencies we respond to are localised. This is different; it’s a whole community that is affected. We’re just doing the best we can to help them.
Aimee Thomas, 22, emergency response officer, from North Wales
The community coming together is the main thing I’ll take away from this horrible incident.
I was a bit nervous in the train coming down, as I’ve only been in the job three weeks and this is my first emergency.
But as soon as I got here and saw the community volunteers and donations being dropped off, it put me right at ease. I thought, ‘this community has got it’.
One thing that I’ll take away from this experience is pride at being part of that community.
- The Red Cross helpline is available for anyone who has been affected by the Grenfell Tower fire and is in need of support – 0800 4589472 (free from landlines and mobiles) open 8am to 8pm.
- The Grenfell Assistance Centre has now moved to: The Curve, No 10 Bard Road, Nottingdale, West London, W10 6TP. People can access services and support provided by the response team from 10am to 8pm.
- Read more: What to do if you’ve been affected by Grenfell Tower fire
- Donate to the London Fire Relief Fund to support people affected by the fire.
- Read more: ‘People must get the support they need after traumatic events’
This blog was updated on 21 July 2017