St Mary’s Church in Portchester Castle was a hive of industry on Friday 9th and Saturday 10th October. Over forty students from Cams Hill School in Fareham teamed up with St Mary’s and the community of Portchester to receive and sort out donations for the Syrian refugees currently stranded in Europe.

Throughout the two days, the local community responded generously as donations poured in: clothes, shoes, bedding, candles, food, toiletries and medicines were brought to the church. In the end the whole of the north transept was full of bags and boxes, and three large van loads were taken to Portsmouth on the Saturday.

The students worked incredibly hard from the time they arrived until they went, and showed great team spirit working with helpers from the church.

Tina Bennet in Year 10 commented, ‘It’s been really fun helping and it makes me feel really good knowing how much this will help others.’ Mrs Lucy Webb, head of RE at the school who organised Cams Hill response said, ‘The events have been an overwhelming success. I have ben totally taken aback by the wealth of support given by the local community. It has been lovely working in partnership with St Mary’s. Cams Hill students have been a credit to the school and worked as a formidable team sorting through gthe wave of donations given. My hope is now that the donations will reach refugees safely and help in some small way to rebuild what they have lost.’

It was a joint effort with the local community and GSF London, Highbury College and Portchester Plastering all gave the use of their vans freely to transport the donations to Portsmouth where they were handed in to the depot being organised by Jerry Brown and friends who have set up ‘Donate – don’t hate’. Jerry and his friends will be personally transporting the donations to Europe, and during the day an additional £200 was collected to help towards this.

St Mary’s is not stopping at this. Through a Southampton based charity ‘Solent for Syria’ set up recently to the respond to the crisis, church members have been filling up shoeboxes with hats, gloves, school supplies and sweets to give to boys and girls in the refugee camps at Syria. So far dozens of these have been returned and we think the final total which we hope to collect by the end of October will reach around 100 shoeboxes.

A third response has been to help the plight of Christians fleeing genocide at the hands of the Islamic State army whose barbarity has almost wiped out the Christian community in parts of Syria. The Polish Government has said that will accept Christian refugees and give them a new start in their land. The Barnabas Fund has been organising donations in order to help transport these people to Poland, and so far St Mary’s congregation has raised over £6,000.