21 SEP 2017

Caring for those affected by the Grenfell Tower tragedy

In the early hours of Wednesday, June 14th, a fire broke out in Grenfell Tower, West London. Many of us woke up that morning to horrific images on our TVs of flames engulfing the 24-storey building. At least eighty people were killed in the tragedy.

At such times we feel like we must do something to help those in need. Yet we ourselves feel helpless. What can we really do to make a difference? Local charities were bombarded with clothes and donations. Yet before long they started turning things away because they already had far more than they could handle. People here in Dover and Deal got in touch with me asking what could be done to help.

My first thought was what do we here have to offer in our corner of Kent? We have beautiful beaches, incredible history and lots of things to do. The victims of the fire should be offered the opportunity to enjoy all Dover and Deal has to offer.

I met with local hotelier Ian Dunkerley. He wanted to do something to help the victims too. His daughter works in a school just 400 metres from the tower. Hoteliers at The Clarendon, The King's Head and The Royal in Deal also offered to help.

We got our heads together and started planning an all-inclusive trip with local businesses. Dover Sea Safari offered a boat ride around the harbour. The Dover Marina Hotel said they could put on lunch. English Heritage provided tickets for Dover Castle and Walmer Castle. Dunkerley's Seafood Restaurant would do dinner. And the Clarendon Hotel offered an overnight room. All free of charge.

And last month I was delighted to welcome Judith and Rafthina Peterson down to Dover and Deal. We met in the square outside The King's Head in Deal where live music had been playing all afternoon in glorious sunshine. We had a long chat about the fire at Grenfell. How they had been made homeless. How their lives had been turned upside down. It was heart breaking to hear.

Yet when we asked how they had enjoyed their trip to Dover and Deal, big smiles appeared on their faces. They said they'd had a fantastic time and it was one the best breaks they'd ever had. Their local council said Judith and Rafthina returned to London with a spring in their step.

Of course nothing will ever put right that tragic day in June. Yet we wanted to show that every corner of the country cares deeply about what happened at Grenfell and the people affected by it.

Community spirit is one of our many strengths around here in Dover and Deal. We always rally around to help those in need. It's what makes me proud to live in this area and call it home.

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Charlie Elphicke

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