By Brendan McDaid
Local teacher Aideen Hughes, one of those who started the appeal in response to the exodus of people fleeing war-torn countries and extreme poverty in the Middle East and Africa, said three 40ft truckloads have now been filled with aid.
The Derry appeal has now ended and the next stage will see a number of options examined including keeping the aid in storage for refugees coming here, or transporting it to aid workers from St Vincent dePaul working on the ground in Turkey and Greece, where many of the refugees are arriving with only the clothes on their backs.
Ms Hughes said the appeal started with the group in Cork heading to refugees at Calais in France. After this appeal became overrun with donations it was decided to broaden it out to include refugees in other locations.
The items collected in Derry are items of clothing for men, women and children along with toiletries and first aid packs.
Ms Hughes said: “The response has been absolutely overwhelming, it really, really has.
“Thornhill College alone brought 80 boxes of aid and they had to get four men from Omega in two trucks to do two runs. There has also been a massive response from St Mary’s College as well and in fact most of the schools came with their minibuses.”
Younger children meanwhile have been among those who have been offering to help sort out and pack up the goods gifted to the refugees from local people.
The aid was being housed at Cornerstone Church’s premises at the former Channel 9 building on Duke Street thanks to the generosity of Pastor Brian Somerville and the congregation there, who have also been helping to organise the aid.
Local businesses which also got involved through NW Volunteers were Onesource Virtual, with 30 members of staff coming to help sort and pack aid boxes.
“There was so much to be done,” Ms Hughes said. “We had this massive room filled with stuff, it was major operation, we had five people making boxes, other people packing. It was brilliant. All our packaging is now done and it’s in the lorries and we are now finalising a couple of different options.”
Thousands of refugees have continued to arrive in small boats at Greek islands over the past week.
In one case on Wednesday, 114 Syrian refugees were abandoned by people smugglers but managed to arrive at Cyprus in fishing boats.
In another episode this week a search is under way after a boat full of refugees is believed to have sank off Samos.
Local people wishing to make a donation to help refugees can do so through the various charities working on the ground with refugees.