Nextdoor exists to help neighbours come together to help one another. Never is that more important than in a time of crisis, such as a serious crime, disaster or emergency. But few could have imagined the terrible situation that neighbours in North Kensington woke up to on 14th June. The Grenfell Tower fire, perhaps the deadliest such event since the Second World War, saw 127 flats in the 220ft tower block go up in flames overnight.
Within hours of the blaze starting, neighbours were voicing their horror, but also their desire to help. Amid confusion as to the disaster relief efforts being undertaken by the authorities, it was neighbours who stepped into the breach – with countless acts of kindness demonstrating the resilience of this diverse, yet close-knit community.
Social media played a key role in coordinating neighbours’ efforts. We saw this powerfully on Nextdoor, too, as neighbours who were there on the ground from the early morning began to relay information to their communities, appeal for volunteers, ask for donations and accommodation, and provide vital updates – all in real-time.
From early in the morning, neighbours’ instincts were to offer help. A Portobello neighbour stated “I’m really upset about what has happened and wondering what we can do to help these poor people? There are lots of families who’ve lost everything.” Tia, who lives right around the corner from the blaze said “a worried friend phoned me up. I ran outside to my garden to see Grenfell Tower on fire. Having friends there, I was horrified.”
The outpouring of help and support from across the incredibly diverse community of North Kensington was truly breathtaking at a time of incredible need. Many neighbours went down to the refuge sites first thing in the morning and posted updates on social media describing exactly what was required to support the survivors and which sites were still taking donations. Other neighbours were therefore able to respond to this fast-changing crisis by going to the sites in most urgent need of additional help. One Portobello neighbour, Hamish Adourian, said that this “allowed more people to get involved quicker and cut out layers of bureaucracy, allowing neighbours to offer help where it was most needed.” One neighbour purchased all the sleeping bags at Snow + Rock, another responded to a request to take a gas canister at a relief site and countless others responded to specific requests for items like toiletries and pet food.
Tia said she was “bowled over by the kind messages of support and encouragement I have personally received from other neighbours and friends on Nextdoor, as I have lost people, sadly, and still rather traumatised by the whole thing. It is so positive to see our community come together after such a tragic event.”
Linde Carr, who lives on Westbourne Park Road added that “all day people were walking past my house with bags packed with stuff for the Grenfell. I am so proud to be part of this community.” Another neighbour, who co-ordinated one of the relief sites at a local church wrote on Nextdoor that the community response “was just love in its truest form: no class, no religion, no culture, no colour, working side by side. This was about the community coming together in a moment of a disaster in spite of the authorities. I love you all and is so grateful you will never know how much.”
We encourage all readers to continue to donate to Kensington & Chelsea Foundation’s Grenfell Relief appeal or to the North Kensington Law Centre. Donation links have been included in Nextdoor users’ feeds since news of the disaster broke.
We know that North Kensington neighbours will continue to help families affected by this terrible disaster in the weeks, months and years ahead.
Mark Gettleson is Community Engagement Manager at Nextdoor UK and a Lead in Nextdoor Portobello.