ORGANISERS of a recent winter coat collection for asylum seekers and refugees have been overwhelmed with the community response to their appeal, with a total of over 1,000 coats donated over the past two weeks.

The collection was set up by a small group of local residents who volunteer with Refugee Action in Bradford after they became aware that the children and families supported by the charity were going into the winter season with no coats and no means to acquire any.

Local contacts, as well as primary schools and churches were approached to help, resulting in a first collection of 300 adult and children’s coats which were sent to Refugee Action for immediate Covid-19 secure distribution to the families who need them.

A subsequent collection at Ilkley Grammar School, organised by teacher Matthew Carr, resulted in a massive donation of over 700 coats by its pupils and the wider IGS community.

Mr Carr said: “The number of coats donated by the IGS family has surpassed all our expectations and I’m so impressed by the community spirit shown by our pupils and their families in wanting to support other families less fortunate than ourselves. This year has certainly not been the easiest but it shows that with a little creativity in thinking we can show the very best in humanity. I’m very proud of our school.”

This huge collection of coats means that not only will all the families supported by Refugee Action in Bradford have a good quality warm coat this winter, but other organisations will also benefit from the community’s generosity.

Last week, coats were also sent to the Red Cross in Bradford, as well as a women’s refuge in Bradford, St Stephen’s Church in Bradford which runs a clothing bank for children, BIASAN, a volunteer-run charity supporting single asylum seekers currently hosted in ‘hotels’, the Anchor Project, a grass roots organisation working in the most challenging areas of inner city Bradford with marginalised communities and a charity in Wakefield which supports asylum seekers and refugees. Coats have also been sent to Care4Calais which delivers emergency aid to refugees in Calais and areas affected by the European migrant crisis.

Organiser Felicity Tombin said: “We are so humbled and overwhelmed with the offers of help we have received and the number of coats that have been collected by everyone. A particular thank you to Mr Carr and Ilkley Grammar School for their massive support. It is wonderful that, even though things are challenging at the moment, we are still able to show love, care and compassion for vulnerable people, many of whom are in great need.

“The fact that we can all still do really incredible things even during a pandemic is brilliant and it means so much to know that our community’s kindness has made a difference to these people’s lives and that they can now be warm, knowing that someone cares about them.”

Refugee Action Bradford are currently supporting families from Eritrea, Albania, Pakistan, Mauritius, Iran / Kurdistan, Iraq / Kurdistan, Nigeria, Sudan, El Salvador, Benin, Honduras, Russia, Zimbabwe, Uzbekistan, Sri Lanka and others.

Other appeals that the group has organised this year have included a children’s shoes collection and school equipment for children having to work at home during lockdown. Felicity is also now organising a Christmas Gift initiative for Refugee Action.

For more information about this campaign and the annual Reverse Advent Appeal, please visit the Wharfedale Refugee Response Facebook page.