Last Saturday more than 100 people gathered outside Torquay Town Hall to show solidarity with the people of Ukraine. As the days go by it seems that the human suffering in that land, not dissimilar to our communities, becomes ever deeper and darker for those enduring this aggression from the Russian leader Putin.
Whether it is children suffering from cancer being coached into Poland for treatment, or mothers nursing babies and fleeing their homes after the Russian army shells them, it feels that those who are the most vulnerable and those who are at the margins of their society are the first victims of this crisis.
On Saturday morning, as we gathered to show our solidarity with the people of Ukraine, the warmth and compassion was palpable that people from across Torbay expressed in support of the victims of this unprovoked aggression. The vigil was arranged by our youngest councillor Jack Dart who represents the Ellacombe ward. A massive thank you goes to Jack for his work on this and those who came along to support. One of the speakers was local councillor Lee Howgate who, as a former Foreign Office diplomat stationed in Russia, was able to give an in depth analysis of the current geopolitical situation. One of the wrongs that he highlighted was how London, in recent years, has sadly became a haven for dirty money from Moscow and how the government urgently needs to get a grip on this situation.
In Torbay we have shown our solidarity by changing our seafront lights to blue and yellow like the Ukrainian flag. On Saturday morning many people were commenting how they wish they could do more to support the victims of this humanitarian crisis. I am sure many of us across the bay feel helpless and wish we could do more.
Torbay Council has made a £25,000 cash donation to the Disaster Emergency Committee Ukraine Appeal to support the people of Ukraine. Many Torbay residents have expressed a desire to help refugees fleeing Ukraine and are asking where they can donate items. We have spoken with the local voluntary and community sector on how Torbay as a community can best help those in need. The advice from the British Red Cross and The Salvation Army, who both have extensive expertise in supporting global humanitarian efforts, is to give funds.
Charities working on the ground in Ukraine are the closest to the people that need help and will be some of the best informed on how to use donations to ensure the greatest impact. There are several reputable charities taking donations directly to support those affected by the conflict including British Red Cross, The Salvation Army, Unicef UK and the Disaster Emergency Committee. Full details can be found on the council’s website.
Torbay has a large Eastern European community, many of whom may have loved ones living in or fleeing from Ukraine. As we think about those desperately trying to keep safe, we need to remember the impact this could be having on our own neighbours, friends and colleagues. Much like we all did during the coronavirus lockdowns ,check in on those in your local community who may be affected. More than ever kindness, compassion and support for one another needs to be shown.
Torbay has a great tradition of helping those displaced by war, with Brixham particularly supporting those from Belgium during the second world war. More recently, Torbay has provided sanctuary or Syrian and Afghan families. If needed, we will be offering Torbay as a healthy and safe place to live to Ukrainian refugees.
We will continue to show our support for Ukraine where we can. Changing the colours of Torquay and Paignton’s seafront illuminations from their usual colourful display to blue and yellow is just a small way of showing that we stand united with Ukraine.
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