A RESPITE charity set up to help people affected by the Grenfell Tower fire in 2017 (News, 21 June 2017) has welcomed its 500th guest.
The volunteer-led charity Cornwall Hugs seeks to support mental and physical well-being and reforge the community after the disaster, in which 72 people died (Interview, 12 April 2019). It has just held its first Walk and Talk holiday in Cornwall for a group of 17 older survivors, bereaved pensioners, and three support workers, who meet weekly for two hours to walk and talk in Kensington.
Walk and Talk was gaining traction as a movement for building community and combating isolation, the founder of Cornwall Hugs, Esmé Page, said. “With a week together, the natural therapy of the ocean, and everyone staying doors away from each other — all the benefits are intensified.
“There’s a deeper listening that can happen when you walk side by side, especially by the sea. People have felt able to share what’s on their heart, and, when it’s painful, it’s as if the rumbling waves hold a witness, giving space to simply be and reflect.”
Cornwall Hugs worked with its long-time partner, Penlee Lifeboat, to organise a short memorial at sea for the four generations of Anne Marie Murphy’s family who were on the holiday. She lost her brother Denis in the fire. On what would have been his birthday, the families cast white roses into the water as the lifeboat respectfully circled off Penlee Point.
The cox, Patch Harvey, and his crew had now welcomed more than 100 guests. “We are deeply grateful to them and the RNLI. Their quiet understanding of community tragedy and grief is healing in itself,” Ms Page said.
The group included Christians, a Muslim, and others of no faith. All were reported as fascinated to be treading in the footsteps of pilgrims from hundreds of years ago, when they walked a small section of St Michael’s Way.
“We’re not a Christian charity, but all our trustees are Christian,” Ms Page said. “For each holiday, I always have them and about half-a-dozen other supporters on a prayer WhatsApp group, who pray along with the week, as well as the prayer support for this local cluster, the Penlee Cluster. Some of those feel like kind of godparents to the charity.”
She described support from local businesses as “phenomenal even now, six years after the tragedy”.