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Neighbours in Poplar need new minibus after Calais ‘Jungle’ camp refugee run

PUBLISHED: 18:47 25 September 2017 | UPDATED: 08:00 26 September 2017

Sister Christine Frost [3rd from left] and volunteers at the Calais 'Jungle' camp in March with their faithful minibus now at the end of the road. Picture: Neighbours in Poplar

Sister Christine Frost [3rd from left] and volunteers at the Calais 'Jungle' camp in March with their faithful minibus now at the end of the road. Picture: Neighbours in Poplar

Neighbours in Poplar

Sister Christine Frost’s hard-pressed Neighbours in Poplar charity has started a crowd-funding campaign to raise cash to replace the ageing minibus used on the Calais ‘refugee run’.

Sister Christine Frost who runs Neighbours in Poplar charity for the elderly and those in poverty. Picture: Mike BrookeSister Christine Frost who runs Neighbours in Poplar charity for the elderly and those in poverty. Picture: Mike Brooke

They want to replace the clapped out vehicle used to transport emergency supplies to refuges in ‘the Jungle’ camp earlier this year.

The bus is also put through its heavy paces giving a social life to the East End’s elderly, those living alone and families in poverty.

Much of their hard-raised income is being spent having it patched up. The tail lift used for wheelchairs often breaks.

The bus is “begging for retirement”, but the charity needs the transport for running shopping trips, dropping and collecting from lunch clubs, hospital appointments, food drops and seaside trips.

Sister Christine Frost and volunteers ready to load food onto the minibus for distribution at Christmas. Picture: Neighbours in PoplarSister Christine Frost and volunteers ready to load food onto the minibus for distribution at Christmas. Picture: Neighbours in Poplar

“I never realised how hard our minibus works,” Sister Christine said. “She really does need a break.”

The charity’s “ancient IT equipment” could also do with retirement.

“Our computers Molly, Polly, Lolly and Jolly no longer want to carry on working,” the Sister of Mercy added.

“Sometimes it seems to take a lifetime to send a simple email.

“We have suffered many cutbacks in these austere times, but whatever people can manage will put a smile of many faces.”

Volunteers are helping with database, leaflets, emails, online applications and booking events to raise an immediate £10,000 that is needed urgently.

Neighbours in Poplar—started by Sister Christine in 1969 originally to provide support to frail, isolated pensioners—used the minibus to run supplies of food, sleeping bags and toiletries to refugee camps in Calais and Dunkirk in March.

She also uses the minibus to deliver food and clothing around the East End and to distribute 300 meals over the Christmas-New Year period, as well as taking children on educational excursions and pensioners and disabled on shopping trips.

Her charity is appealing for public donations which also pay for 60 people to attend its lunch clubs every week, running seaside day trips and taking families in poverty on holiday to Broadstairs.

But it’s now at the end of the road and her hard-pressed volunteers need a new set of wheels if they are to continue into the New Year.

A customised minibus costs £45,000 to get on the road.

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