Dismayed with the refugee crisis, this man decided to set up his own charity to help

Evan Bartlett@ev_bartlett
Friday 18 September 2015 09:50
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The British government has announced that it will take in 20,000 refugees from camps in Syria and its neighbouring states.

While David Cameron insists the government is pulling its weight, both in terms of the quota being taken in over the course of the next five years as well as in the amount of money Britain spends in foreign aid, there are still hundreds of thousands of displaced people already in Europe and need of desperate help.

Beyond the government’s action, or lack thereof, lies a much bigger wave of compassion: thousands who have attended marches, donated money to charity and signed petitions calling on politicians to do more.

Among this is a man who decided that he could no longer sit back and watch as the most severe refugee crisis since the Second World War unfolded before his eyes: so he decided to set up his own charity.

Connor England, founder of Solidarity4Refugees (Picture: Facebook/Solidarity4Refugees)

Taking a quick break from what has been a whirlwind two weeks of launching Solidarity4Refugees, organiser Connor England, 21, spoke to i100.co.uk about his motivation for setting up a charity and what exactly he, with the help of his friend Aidan Ramsey, hope to achieve.

“They’re human beings, of all ages, who are needlessly suffering. And we’re ashamed to see this happening,” England explains over the phone, reflecting on the situation in Europe.

People are disregarding the lives of other desperate people through debate. Organisations such as us and others in the UK have started to drive towards a compassionate approach, to action, to help out.

You see images of Aylan al-Kurdi, a little three-year-old, washing up on the beach and it’s really driven people’s emotions.

England, a music industry student, dreamt up Solidarity4Refugees in his bedroom at home just two weeks ago. After seeking advice on how to register as a charity, creating social media pages and handing out thousands of fliers at the refugee solidarity march in London last weekend, they are now ready to start taking donations.

Tens of thousands joined a refugee solidarity march in London last weekend (Picture: Getty)

One of the focal points of the refugee crisis is in Calais. On Britain’s doorstep, an estimated 4,000 desperate men, women and children live in squalid conditions in the makeshift camps set up there while they dream of a better life across the Channel. It’s here that Solidarity4Refugees will initially focus its relief efforts.

“To be honest, look, I’m not a politician,” England explained when asked if he was angered by the government’s perceived lack of action. “We’re not about criticism of people or policies, what we’re really about is working alongside others to bring hope to those who need it.”

A resident of the so-called "Jungle" in Calais (Picture: Getty)

With winter approaching, England is focusing his efforts on working with other organisations like Calais Action, Cry Out for Calais and CalAid to create a more “logistically organised movement of relief”.

This 20,000 quota that the PM’s just announced... I thank the PM for saving 20,000 lives. For those people it will make all the difference in the world, but for us and our organisation, and other organisations and people who want to help, I think it’s important for us to start working together.

As well as setting up collection points in London and surrounding areas and calling on companies that can help provide services and coordinate logistics, Solidarity4Refugees will be launching a JustGiving page this weekend where it hopes to raise an initial £5,000.

Volunteers handed out 10,000 of these fliers in London last weekend (Picture: Solidarity4Refugees)

The charity will use the money to purchase the best and most appropriate supplies - food, warm clothes and cooking equipment - as recommended by NGOs working on the ground in Calais.

Solidarity4Refugees will be launching its JustGiving fundraising page this weekend. You can donate money here and follow the charity on Facebook and Twitter.

More: Why David Cameron's visit to a refugee camp wasn't quite what it seemed

More: An open letter to anyone who ever talked down the refugee crisis

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