At the Jagged Edge
Posted on January 7th, 2016 at 8:27AM
We are starting to get used to seeing UK floods on the news. In the recent bout, where York received a lot of the attention with visits from both David Cameron and Jeremy Corbyn, there were many other areas affected. Hebden Bridge in West Yorkshire was one of those. "Oh Hebden Bridge always floods", someone said to me, but when I saw one of our Acts 435 Advocates post requests for flood victims there, I started to reflect on what that actually meant in practice.
With a desire to help get support for the numerous requests now on our website for flood victims in Calderdale (where Hebden Bridge was just one of the villages affected), I decided the best way to understand more was to go and visit the places and the advocate, Andrew, who was in the thick of it all.
Andrew, who works for a Christian counselling charity (ironically called Noah's Ark), like many others on seeing the floods, headed down to the affected areas and the Hubs set up to support victims, to help in any way he could. Once there, seeing the need and realising how much counselling would be required in the aftermath, he suddenly realised that this was also an excellent fit for Acts 435. Whilst generic funds have been made available for all victims, however poor or wealthy they are, some of the most vulnerable would need additional support.
Take 92 year old Barbara, in a sheltered housing complex in the village of Mytholmroyd. All the ground floor flats of the complex were flooded. Given that at 3pm on Saturday, the Calder was at 5.65m, the highest level recorded and more than 3.5m above its usual peak, you can imagine how traumatic an event this was. She was found in a state of shock sitting in her arm chair with water in the property already over 6" deep.
I met someone in one of these flooded homes, turned into a collection point for donations. Andrew had some duvets and pillows donated by 'Silent Night' which we dropped off. This lad's parents lived in the complex and were flooded. He had helped to strip each flat of its carpets and contents - all dumped in a huge pile outside the houses. The residents were in hotels but "it's for when they return that we are collecting all these items", he told me. "They'll need everything." Desperately sad to think of the many precious possessions, as well as the practical ones, ruined by flood water.
Many can no longer get insurance because they have been flooded in the past. Some of these people are financially unable to replace their lost things. What a difficult situation - homes set in beautiful surroundings but with a history of flooding, now impossible to insure, impossible to sell.
Andrew's comment focused on a person's resilience. "Some have good support networks around them and can manage. For others, however, this experience will take them to the jagged edge where they cannot cope or see the way forward." Barbara was one of those people and thankfully Acts 435 donors have already given to a request for a fridge for her. We hope the same will happen for her freezer.
We discussed how Acts 435 can help these people on the jagged edge, not just in emergency replacement of items, but as people come to terms with the knock-on effects of the flooding. Many businesses have been flooded and may not be open for months - that means no employment for some residents in these villages. The local school was flooded and all the children are being taken to schools in Halifax - who knows what kind of needs may arise as part of that. I am glad Andrew and his network of counsellors are there, on the ground, identifying those most vulnerable people and offering support where appropriate.
Everything seemed calm after an intense 10 days but there were hints of the chaos that had been. I chatted to a retired fireman come up from London with a group of mates, with their old fire engine. A group set up after 9-11, they have been all over, both at home and abroad. In Hebden Bridge their work had focused on cleaning away all the silt from the main roads and helping get furniture out of houses - "a sofa sodden with water is incredibly heavy", I was told.
It's great to see how the community has rallied round - curry houses from Bradford have sent hot food through, trucks arrive from nowhere to clear some of the ruined possessions (making sure they don't take anything labelled 'Don't Take - needed for insurers!) and those not flooded have cleared their storage space to make it available for storing donations. Through Acts 435 we have a chance now to help specific individuals and make an impact in their individual journey of recovering from the floods.