From Hitchin to Calais with love as community rallies to help refugees

David Alvarez, AZ Autos and Adam Wilson, Director of Charles Wilson, are donating carpets to a churc

David Alvarez, AZ Autos and Adam Wilson, Director of Charles Wilson, are donating carpets to a church in the refugee camp in Calais - Credit: Archant

A mercy mission to a refugee camp in Calais is set to deliver some much needed food, clothing and equipment – including a carpet for a makeshift church featured on TV’s Songs of Praise.

Left to right: Gerry Reilly, Felix Camfield-Walker, Dr Kay Miller, and Matthew Gunn.

Left to right: Gerry Reilly, Felix Camfield-Walker, Dr Kay Miller, and Matthew Gunn. - Credit: Archant

Dan Drew from Hitchin’s Hub Church visited the refugee camp in Calais known as ‘The Jungle’ on a fact finding visit earlier this month.

After meeting church elders Dan and fellow Hub Church members, promised to return with a carpet – for St Michael’s, the only place of worship in the camp which houses between 3,000 to 5,000 people – and which is growing daily.

Dan said: “We met with a church leader called Solomon. When we asked what he needed to help he immediately replied: ‘A carpet.’

“When we got home, a friend of mine, David Alvarez, of AZ Autos, in Whinbush Road, said he’d buy the carpet from Charles Wilson Carpets, who kindly offered an 8ftx12ft grey carpet at cost price.”

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David said: “I just wanted to help. Whatever you think about other issues the fact is it’s a humanitarian crisis, people are suffering.”

Adam Wilson from the Hermitage Road carpet firm said: “We’ve all been moved by the suffering shown on our screens and wanted to give fellow human beings some dignity, through providing a carpet for their church.”

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Dan and 10 Hub Church members will be returning to France on Sunday to donate tinned foods, cooking oil and sleeping bags to people in the camp, as well presenting the carpet to Solomon.

The Calais church which gained national recognition after controversially hosting BBC One’s Songs of Praise last month.

Dan added: “It was a tremendous gesture by AZ Autos and Charles Wilson.

“When we told Solomon we were determined to return with a carpet for him, he looked at us kindly, but with an understandable look of: ‘I’ll believe it when I see it.’ When we were there the only carpet they had was a small Winnie The Pooh rug someone had given them.

“We’ll also donate the other items people have generously given, with the remainder we’re unable to take then going to the donation drop organised by Felix Camfield-Walker.”

Felix, owner of Farley’s on Hermitage Road – featured in last week’s Comet calling for donations – has received help this week from Hitchin-based charity the Dr Hadwen Trust.

Their new Churchyard charity shop can’t use donations featuring wool or leather, because it would be against the venture’s vegan principles.

But they haven’t gone to waste, as sackfuls have been passed on to help refugees.

The charity’s Dr Kay Miller said: “We gratefully receive a huge amount of donated goods, including leather and wool items. When we saw the Comet article we thought it’d be a good idea to pass to Felix the goods we’re unable to sell.”

Felix added: “It’s great Dr Hadwen has been so helpful. It would be great if other Hitchin businesses wanted to help, too.

“And good luck to Dan and Hub Church with their trip to hand over the carpet.”

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