A team of volunteers from Emmaus Hertfordshire joined forces with Herts for Refugees (HFR) to salvage tents and sleeping bags to help refugees, after the Isle of Wight Festival.

Our team of four formerly homeless people, known as companions, plus two members of staff helped a team from HFR collect 260 abandoned tents and 150 sleeping bags after the music weekend. These will be repurposed to support refugees in Calais with vital shelter and warmth.

It’s the second year we have supported Herts for Refugees in its ongoing festival salvage work, having helped them at the Boomtown festival in Hampshire last summer.

Gemma Beckett, our Business Development Manager, said: “We’ve spent a few days with Herts For Refugees as part an ongoing partnership, brought together by our shared belief that everyone, no matter their background, deserves somewhere safe to call home.

“The team at HFR are experts in how best to support with the huge and ever evolving refugee crisis. They have endless amounts of compassion and empathy and an insatiable drive to help in any way they can. We are proud beyond words to call them partners and friends.”

Throughout June Emmaus communities across the UK have been focusing on solidarity – one of its core values and a way in which the charity makes a difference to the lives of others by supporting individuals and good causes.

Gemma added: “Much of our solidarity work is done by forging close partnerships with other local organisations working with those in greatest need, including Herts For Refugees, which is especially relevant during Refugee Week.”

Held this year from 19 June to 25 June, Refugee Week is a chance to consider the plight of millions of refugees around the world, and to raise awareness about the worsening situation for many.

Angus Clark, Chief Executive Officer of HFR, said: “It was an absolute pleasure to have the team from Emmaus Hertfordshire along to our salvage event at the Isle of Wight Festival – the guys were total stars. People in need are people in need, no matter if they are at home or overseas and we love working with Emmaus Hertfordshire.

“Volunteering is at the heart of everything we do at HFR and is so vital, as the situation in Calais and Dunkirk changes daily and we have to respond to current needs. We run volunteering trips to France where we work with partner organisations directly supporting refugees, which is a great way for people to really experience the reality of the situation refugees find themselves in.

“As well as France, we also deliver aid to Greece, Lebanon, Syria or wherever the need arises, as it did so suddenly in Ukraine last year. A huge thank you to Emmaus and all our volunteers, we couldn’t do it without you!”

As well as helping people in need, the salvage work prevents tonnes of waste going to landfill, an ethos close to the heart of Emmaus Hertfordshire which repurposes and upcycles second-hand furniture and household items for sale in its shops.

HFR carries out the salvage work at a number of festivals throughout the summer months, with Reading Festival also on its humanitarian schedule in August. The charity was established after the shocking image of Aylan Kurdi, who was washed up on the beach in Greece in August 2015, was seen around the world.

What began as a small collection in a flat in Watford grew quickly into an enormous and generous outpouring of help from the people of Hertfordshire that filled seven storage units and began a series of donation and volunteering convoys to Calais. Since then, they have grown and adapted, supporting displaced people wherever the need arises, as well as refugees arriving here in the UK.