St Albans refugee charity reaches first birthday

Loud Bird PR Sophie Banks, chair of Herts Asian women's association Farhat Zia, Richard Howitt MEP, St Albans for refugees' Liz Needham and former Herts Advertiser reporter Taylor Geall with donations at the St Albans centre

Loud Bird PR Sophie Banks, chair of Herts Asian women's association Farhat Zia, Richard Howitt MEP, St Albans for refugees' Liz Needham and former Herts Advertiser reporter Taylor Geall with donations at the St Albans centre

Archant

A refugee charity which came from humble beginnings has reached its first birthday and raised more than £15,000 for the refugee crisis.

The St Albans for Refugees team gatherring in the Farmer's Boy in the early daysThe St Albans for Refugees team gatherring in the Farmer's Boy in the early days

Monday (7) marked a year since a group of people met in a St Albans pub to discuss what they could do to help refugees escaping war-torn nations.

Since then that group of volunteers have founded an official charity, raised thousands and made numerous trips to Calais and Dunkirk to drop off donations.

Liz Needham is one of the original trustees and is proud of how far the charity has come. She said: “I have been so amazed at the number of volunteers. How many people want to help.”

Liz estimates that over the year about 250 people have volunteered for StAR and many continue to do so. Donations have come in from all over the UK and amount to about £15,000 in total.

This money has been used to fund food shops and generators, which StAR deliver to the camps via a warehouse in Calais.

Liz said that about 70 per cent of the money goes towards food and generators, with the rest going towards travel and admin costs. A breakdown can be viewed on their website.

The group made their first trip to Calais in September and another in November, accompanied by The Herts Advertiser.

By December 2015 they were listed as a non-profit, and after numerous further trips to France, the organisation achieved official charity status in June. Liz estimates that there have been more than 100,000 items donated, and despite not running an official appeal, they still keep coming.

She said: “I have just been amazed at the generosity of the people of St Albans. When we have had a bit dip and we are feeling a bit ‘Has it run its course?’ somebody will ring up and say I’ve got stuff or put money in the account. People have been so kind and generous.”

StAR have organised a host of fundraising events, with a one day music festival set to take place this Sunday (11).

As well as excelling individually, the charity has also teamed up with Herts For Refugees to bring donations over to France.

Their work has not stopped there, and StAR has been supporting Herts Welcome Syrian Families (HWSF) and the Refugee Council to help settle refugees in the district.

Liz said that some of the refugees have even joined StAR on their trips to drop off donations.

She added: “When we got involved with HWSF they had a big meeting and that’s how we got to know them.”

To find out more about StAR, or donate, visit: http://www.stalbansforrefugees.org/

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