Wheathampstead student launches festival appeal to tackle Kos refugee crisis

Olivia Beach with some of the charity bags

Olivia Beach with some of the charity bags - Credit: Archant

The severe refugee crisis which has taken over the tiny Greek island of Kos has inspired a Wheathampstead student to launch an emergency relief campaign for Christmas.

Olivia Beach, 20, from Wheathampstead, was so moved by what she saw following a trip to the island that she returned home determined to help.

She set up the Kos Refugee Christmas Appeal with a plan to ship 2,000 drawstring bags filled with essentials and small gifts in time for Christmas.

“I witnessed some of the refugees arriving and the large numbers living on the streets and was shocked at the scale of the crisis which has taken over the island. When I came home, I really wanted to do something to try and help the refugees in any way possible. I decided that with the Christmas period looming I wanted to give the refugees something to smile about.”

Olivia needs only £3,000 to donate 2,000 bags to Kos this December. She has already raised nearly £2,000 through the help of local companies and organisations as well as individual donations. People are invited to donate to the cause or fill a bag ready for shipment.

All funds will go towards covering the costs of resources required and the shipping, and any remaining funds will be donated to a refugee crisis charity based out there, Kos Kindness.

The general public are invited to fill a bag for infants, teenagers and adults alike, in the hope of bringing some much needed support and hopefully, some joy. Olivia has provided guidelines on things that can and cannot be packed, taking in shipping restrictions.

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“Refugees are lacking even the most basic supplies like tooth brushes and sanitary items, things we completely take for granted, so even if we can send them things like this, then we’ll hopefully be helping in some way,” she revealed.

Her efforts are being supported by St Albans Fashion Week director Ellena Ophira, after Olivia modelled for them during the recent event.

Ellena explained: “When Olivia approached us during SAFW, we were so keen to offer our support. We think it’s a great idea and we’re proud to support her initiative and drive to get the project done. We distributed many bags at the Cathedral Catwalk Shows and hopefully these will go some way to helping Olivia on her wonderful mission to help.”

Other local businesses have also been touched by Olivia’s endeavours. Louise Wynne from Red Door Recruitment generously donated £250 to cause as well as filling a few bags too.

Louise said: “As soon as I heard about Olivia’s idea I wanted to support her in every way possible. I have been shocked and disturbed by the misery and suffering these people are experiencing, feeling helpless in the face of the biggest refugee crisis since the Second World War.

“It’s always so hard to know what to do in these situations, apart from donating money which you can only hope gets to the people who need it most. Olivia’s idea ensures this will happen as the bags get directly distributed to the refugees. Everyone can be involved and feel they are doing something really positive to help. The bags are easy to fill with basics like toothpaste, socks, soap and a toy for a child. We are a collection point, so feel free to pop in and get a bag and you can also return your filled ones directly to us!”

There are two main pick up and drop off points. Bags can be collected and then returned once full, to Stevensons School Uniform on Victoria Street in St. Albans and Harpenden Public Halls in the centre of Harpenden. The deadline for returning filled bags is Friday December 4 when they will be packed up and shipped to Kos. The Public Halls is also holding an event on Sunday December 6 where members of the public can bring along any donations for the volunteers to put in the bags.

“If I can put a smile on the face of as many refugees as possible, this project will be a success. Please help me spread some Christmas joy during this crisis,” Olivia added.

For more information on the Kos Refugee Christmas Appeal head to the website or Facebook page. To donate to the appeal, please head to the JustGiving page.