By Andy Tong

CREATIVE FORCE Tonbridge Welcomes Refugees sends in donations

A LOCAL organisation collecting stationery so refugees can express themselves artistically is calling for more contributions.

BearNecessities is taking in donations to send on to Hope Café in Athens, which welcomes mig-rants who have fled to Greece from Syria and other trouble spots.

The venue was set up by a British woman, Kerrie Moor, as a safe space for refugees who have come to Greece to meet and relax – and make connections with the local community.

It supports displaced families, offers a variety of workshops and provides free clothing and food parcels, including baby milk and nappies.

BearNecessities, based in Matfield, distributes unused and nearly new teddy bears and some other soft toys for refugees and other vulnerable children.

The organisation approached Hope Café to ask if they wanted anything else.

BearNecessities co-founder Helen Kitto said: “They asked in particular for materials for the children to draw with.

“So we decided to make up pencil cases and send paper and pads, too.”

Ms Kitto, who is an artist herself, recognises just how important creativity is for young people.

She said: “Art can be used as an outlet for children to express their emotions and helps to process the world around them.

“Most of the children supported by Hope Café have few possessions left from their previous life and have faced unimaginable trauma.

“Having a teddy to cuddle, and something they can call their own and take away, is so important to instilling some sense of normality for them.”

Now BearNecessities is making a final appeal for specific items, such as pencils (not coloured), erasers, sharpeners and rulers.

Above all, they would like to receive empty pencil cases in which to put all the coloured pencils and crayons they have received so far.

These can be dropped off at several locations in the area, including Tunbridge Wells Together in Ely Court and Childrensalon in Decimus Park, Tunbridge Wells, Downingbury Farm Shop in Pembury, Hammonds Butchers and Grays Café in Matfield, Brenchley Tennis Club, Carzana Interiors and Cats Holiday Home in Lamberhurst, Tonbridge Old Fire Station and Alice’s Tea Shop in Sevenoaks.

BearNecessities was started by Ms Kitto and her partner, Steve Jones, last year after they were given the donation of a box of teddy bears while collecting aid for refugees in Europe and the homeless in the UK.

“It made us think: ‘Children do need bears – we could get more’.

“So we collect new and pre-loved teddy bears for a wide range of vulnerable children – not just refugees, but those either facing bereavement, illness, poverty or displacement, or young carers both in the UK and overseas.

“We have also provided bears to a local care home for their dementia residents,” she added.

The organisation works closely with several projects and charities, including RefugEase, Imago, Childrensalon and Family Liaison Officers in local schools.

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