Mayor-Trowbridge-Chains-Robe-Park

16 September 2023

This week has been a bit of an emotional rollercoaster. But the one thing that stands out for me is that, however devastating a tragedy may be, there will always be members of our town’s community who step forward and offer to help.

The beginning of the week was largely taken up with the town’s response to the recent earthquake in Morocco. This magnitude 6.8 earthquake had been centred on an area about 70km southeast of Marrakesh. Although Marrakesh was “hit”, and the old historic centre of the city was badly damaged, the devastation up in the Atlas Mountains was far worse. The more remote villages in the mountains have been almost totally destroyed by the earthquake, and there will soon be virtually no shelter from the bitter winter that is normal up in the high slopes and valleys.

I don’t know whether you’re aware of this, but here in Trowbridge, we have the largest Moroccan community outside London. We have very positive relationships with the Kingdom of Morocco, local elements of its government in the Oriental region, and the Moroccan Embassy in the UK.

In response to this, over the weekend of the 9th and 10th of September, the Moroccan community here in Trowbridge, through the mosque on Longfield Road, had not just launched an appeal for funds to directly help the relief effort in Morocco but had started to organise the collection of essential and much-needed material aid—tents, blankets, sleeping bags, warm clothing, sanitary products, etc.—that they wanted to send out to help those left with virtually nothing.

By Monday midday, Trowbridge’s efforts had been lucky enough to attract the attention of both the BBC and ITV, who both sent film crews over to the town to do pieces featuring representatives of the Moroccan community for their local news shows. These were broadcast on Monday evening as reports on BBC Points West and the ITV Local News, highlighting the Moroccan community here in Trowbridge and its efforts to help their brethren back in Morocco.

I don’t claim any credit for this, but if I can use the position of Mayor to grab the attention of a news desk and point them in the direction of local residents who need help, then to me, that’s a very good use of my time.

On Friday afternoon, I was back at the Trowbridge Mosque on Longfield Road.

I was originally meant to be at the Holbrook School for the opening of their new building, but last week’s earthquake rocked Trowbridge’s Moroccan community to its core. Many of them have links with the region affected, and many know people who were directly impacted by the earthquake.

So when I was invited to join the Moroccan community at the mosque on Longfield Road for Friday prayers, I didn’t really have to think twice. I contacted Holbrook School to explain why I felt that I had to attend the mosque and show the town’s support and solidarity with the hurting Moroccan community. The school understood exactly why I felt that I had no choice but to let them down, and Deputy Mayor, Cllr. Denise Bates, who knows Holbrook School well, kindly attended the school’s new building opening in my place.

What the Moroccan community has achieved in a very short period of time has been nothing short of phenomenal. and is a true testament to the strength and generosity of everyone who’s been touched by this catastrophe. On Monday, when I first visited the mosque, they’d only just started putting the word out for blankets, tents, sleeping bags, etc. By the time I went back on Friday, they had collected so much that they’re now urgently looking for somewhere to store it while they arrange for its transport to Morocco.

I have been in touch with a couple of local churches, but while they’re happy to act as collection points for aid, like the mosque, they’re not in a position to store the donated items while we organise the transport. So if you own, or know of, a dry (that’s important) space that can be used to store this aid material, please do get in touch with me.

The next challenge is to arrange the transport of all this collected aid out to Marrakesh, which is acting as the hub for relief teams working up into these devastated villages in the Atlas Mountains.

That’s the big ask. The Moroccan community here is trying to raise funds to pay for trips from Trowbridge to Marrakesh. probably two vans at a time. delivering the collected aid to a central distribution point set up in the city.

So they need donations to their crowdfunding page. They’ve raised quite a bit so far, but nowhere near enough. If you can help, or even just spread the word, the link is below.

https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/p/moroccan-earthquake-appeal?tk=MTY5NDUzNjM2OTc3N2E1ZWI5MWFhYWY0M2M2NGYyNWNiYzI0YWNhNTE3Mjg3MTIwMTU%3D

But here it really is a big ask. They’re also looking for the vans themselves, either loaned for the duration of the trip or, even better, donated. The fact is that it may be better to drive the vans to Marrakesh fully loaded with aid and then leave them there for use in the relief effort. We could then fly back to the UK (which is cheaper than driving two empty vans back)!

If you can help in any way, or point us in the direction of someone who may be able to help, Please get in touch with me, and I’ll put you in touch with the driving force (no pun intended!) behind this plan.

My email address is stephen.cooper@trowbridge.gov.uk.

That’s it for now, so until next time… Keep safe, and please be kind to each other.

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