Tear-jerking messages from big-hearted Sheffield youngsters are on their way to refugee children – alongside more than 20,000 teddy bears.
Hundreds of schools, nurseries and groups across the country, including Clifford CofE Infant School in Nether Edge and Broomhill Infant School, have taken part in teddy bear appeal Project Paddington.
The mountains of sponsored bears and the heartfelt messages – many carefully written in crayon or felt tip pen – are now on their way to children in Jordan and Iraq.
Joy French, aged 40, of Norfolk Park, launched Project Paddington on Facebook with other Sheffield mums after seeing photographs of the body of three-year-old refugee Aylan Kurdi washed up on a Turkish beach.
She initially thought the project – which collects donations of teddies and sends them to refugee children – would be small-scale, but it escalated in just a few weeks.
The trainee vicar said: “We are overwhelmed and delighted by the incredible response we have seen. Children around the country raised over £35,000 to help refugees on the ground.”
Workers from builders’ merchant Travis Perkins have been putting the bears in pallets in regional centres across the country and transporting them to warehouses in Warrington and Northampton.
Parcel delivery company Hermes and clothing company Boden have then arranged for the bears to be taken to Aylesford, in Kent, where they are being shipped overseas.
Businesses, from renewable energy specialists to florists, have chipped in to help, storing bears in their offices and moving them in their vans.
Joy said: “We are so grateful. We’d love more companies to offer logistics and financial support just as Hermes, Boden and Travis Perkins have done.”
Project Paddington has also become international with a feature in Norwegian publication Aftenposten Junior and the launch of a similar scheme in Australia.
The Sheffield team is also planning new ventures, working with new schools and groups that want to help and show their support to refugees.
The group has already run teddy bears’ picnics, face painting, bring-your- teddy-to-school days, marmalade-making competitions, onesie days and sponsored walks to raise much-needed funds.
They are keen to receive further donations via their website and hope to launch a new initiative in the New Year.
n For more visit www.projectpaddington.com