All Photos courtesy of NHYM 2017.
On Wednesday morning, I woke up to this view from my house. It was an incredibly sad day for west London and North Kensington. I am best known for poking fun at myself and my life around Notting Hill, but on Wednesday, I only felt sadness and despair, alongside all my friends and neighbours in the area. That day, it wasn’t about being Labour or Tory, white or black, Christian or Muslim, Remainers or Brexiteers, rich or poor, that day was about being a human.
I have never felt more proud to be a part of this community as I did when I went down to various relief centers to help out, where I saw everyone in the community coming to help, whether to volunteer or to donate clothes, bedding, toys and food. The incredible spirit of human kindness was apparent everywhere you looked, from the grandmother carrying a teddy bear to bring to a lost child, to the mother who piled her pram with nappies to bring to a baby in need, to the people who drove three hours from Kent to offer a helping hand. The response was incredible and overwhelming that no more physical donations are being accepted.
The Rugby Portobello Trust has been a prominent leader from the start, offering shelter and food and accepting donations for the victims. Schools and neighbourhoods have all come together to donate, volunteer and raise funds. All the parents and teachers and community members have shown incredible and wonderful community spirit. Even though there is no silver lining in this tragedy, the solidarity exhibited by our community has gone over and beyond what one could have expected.
The Heroes. Firefighters returning from Grenfell Tower. NHYM 2017.
As I tried to do my small share of helping out, I met a lady from Eritrea, strong and enthusiastic, who had been volunteering all day before starting a shift at a nursing home that afternoon. In that moment, we found a common ground and goal bringing us together. She came to London over 30 years ago, escaping the war in Eritrea, when the UK opened its arms to her and welcomed her. ‘Here’, she said, ‘I have freedoms that I wouldn’t have in many other countries. This country has welcomed me, I love this country. Even though this was a tragedy, the UK had helped all these people in that tower.’ This event has been a constant reminder of what is important, of being grateful, and of being united.
We will probably never know the identities of many who have lost their lives. What are now missing persons, will become the fatalities of the tragedy when they are not found. The process of recovery and identification in a fire like this will be lengthy, arduous and sometimes impossible. The building is not safe yet and who knows if it will ever be for the full identification and recovery process to happen.
But so far, more than £2M has been raised for the Grenfell Tower Tragedy and the number keeps rising. The tireless volunteers are still there helping out, day and night, and will be needed for days and months to come. And now, more than ever, I am proud to be a Notting Hiller and being a part of this community.
For donations specifically for babies and children: