The refugee crisis unfolding across Europe and the Middle East is part of a global crisis, with many and complex reasons. Watching, reading and hearing about the resulting human pain is sometimes almost unbearable.
But often that sense comes from feeling helpless in the face of such outrage and horror. This is the worst refugee crisis since World War Two: but the response, across Cornwall, has been immediate. This time, there is indeed something we can all do.
From the valleys of the south and east to the cliffs of the north and west of the county, local groups, individuals and communities are rolling up sleeves and refusing to accept inertia as a solution. In the face of what feels like an onslaught of Wrong, ordinary people are doing quite extraordinary things; from filling community halls with food, toiletries, wetsuits, clothes and tents to sort and pack into huge containers bound for Greece and France, magicking up pop up shops selling second hand goods, organising performances of music, art and drama, raising enough money to buy replacement ambulances and fundraising to fully equip them, creating networks set up to support resettled families, and assembling community teams of volunteers to travel to Calais, Lesvos, Macedonia and beyond to cook, sort, support, build, listen, console, work with and distribute everything from cough sweets to vegetable curry. Sanctuary has a million faces. There is no great bag of money, no Central Organising Committee, no bureaucracy to bow down to. This is an organic, widespread and remarkable phenomenon. Cornwall is making her own response to the crisis crystal clear. It is time to act.
If our collective global body is ailing and failing, we ordinary people are, effectively, our global immune system standing up fighting back. We know that if the tables were turned, the help would be offered with the same heart and compassion.
On 11 March, some of the groups and individuals came together to share their experiences, their work, their obstacles and their determination, and were able to speak with individuals who have been through the refugee experience and are now working, in turn, to help those still stuck in a nightmare of fear and uncertainty. Everyone brought something: food, filming equipment, venue, time, stories, support, advice, questions and overwhelmingly a determination to do.
Cornwall is offering her heart and arms and legs to provide haven somehow and on this day told her Million Stories of Sanctuary.