Sammy Nickalls
October 02, 2015 1:59 pm

It all started with three women and — because it’s 2015 — a hashtag.

After their Facebook friend donated goods to the refugee camp in Calais, France, radio DJ Lliana Bird, writer and television presenter Dawn O’Porter, and Josie Naughton were inspired to make a difference of their own. The three have over 400,000 Twitter followers combined, and they decided to use their social media influence for good by starting the hashtag #HelpCalais and creating a Twitter account dedicated to the movement to get donations for the refugees in Calais, Kos, and on the Macedonian border. But following or no following, they hadn’t predicted the flood of support they received.

As of Thursday, received 713 tents, 776 pairs of shoes, and over $75,000 (50,000 pounds), The Guardian reports. That whopping amount of money is over 50 times more than what they had set their goal for on their JustGiving page. As The Guardian notes, the team also made sure to create an Amazon wishlist for the refugees to ensure that they will be getting what they actually need — not just mass amounts of donations that they can’t actually use.

Celebrities got in on the action, as well as big companies like Nandos and Dominos, who provided food for the volunteers free of charge. But although big names have been getting involved, the team has also been sure to encourage everyone to lend a hand. “There are so many areas where charities are tied up by red tape politically, and also they have to pick areas that need the most help and that means other areas get neglected,” Naughton told The Guardian. “So it’s really important that your average Joe finds ways to help too.”

This grassroots charity may have started with three women and a hashtag, but in just three-and-a-half weeks, it’s grown into something much larger. The team is now eight people, with about 40 volunteers a day, but what they’ve managed to accomplish in such a short time — for thousands of refugees — is unbelievable. “We’ve only been doing this for three and half weeks,” Bird told The Guardian. “It’s all quite new. We have a warehouse now in Calais and a huge system starting to work there with distribution and volunteers. Now we’re just starting to try and get to grips with how our haulage across Europe is going to work.”

That’s right — hauling across Europe. Because of the group’s immense success, they decided to keep it going by creating a new JustGiving page — this time, to support refugees in places such as Serbia and Hungary. It’s become a cross-continental project, with an aim to provide temporary shelter and materials to refugees who are trying to get to Western Europe.

With their concentrated dedication and focusing on what the refugees truly need, these women have been able to make a difference in an effective way that involves getting people exactly what they need from those who have it — not just dumping a few bags of clothes that they may or may not have use for on their doorstep. “. . . Just turning up with just a bunch of second-hand clothes is incredibly well meaning and while it’s really appreciated it’s creating more work of the people there who have to manage it,” Bird explained to The Guardian.

To help, follow the campaign’s official Twitter account and/or donate here. What an amazing story about three amazing women who are changing the world, one hashtag at a time.

(Image via Twitter.)

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