Up to 30,000 teddies will be delivered to refugee children after an “incredible response” to a Yorkshire-led campaign encouraging youngsters to donate their bears.
Project Paddington, which was set up last month by Sheffield trainee vicar and mother-of-three Joy French, has made its first delivery of 50 teddy bears to Lebanon and has raised thousands of pounds to help displaced families.
Ms French, who launched the Facebook initiative after seeing photographs of three-year-old Aylan Kurdi drowned on a Turkish beach, said she was “overwhelmed and delighted” by the response from schools and groups across the UK.
The trainee vicar said the basic idea was for children to give their teddies with welcome messages attached to those who have fled the war in Syria.
The project has now closed registrations for teddy donations but is still raising funds through teddy bears’ picnics, teddy-to-school days, onesie days and cake sales, with more than £13,000 already paid into Tearfund’s Refugee Crisis Fund.
People are also being encouraged to post a #teddyselfie of themselves and their bear on social media and make a £5 donation to Project Paddington by texting PADDINGTON to 70660.
A number of famous faces, including TV’s Gogglebox vicar Kate Bottley, Archbishop of York Dr John Sentamu and We’re Going On A Bear Hunt author Michael Rosen, have all shown their support for the project.
Ms French, 40, said: “We are overwhelmed and delighted by the incredible response we have seen from schools and groups up and down the country.
“We expect to deliver between 20,000 and 30,000 soft toys and teddy bears.”
She added: “We are enjoying seeing the wonderful creativity of Team Project Paddington as new groups find innovative, bear-related ways to show their support for refugee children and families.
“Our strapline is ‘children helping children’ and I think there is a real need for children who have had everything taken away to know that other families care about them.”
A new project, Friends of Project Paddington, is asking business people to donate their time and skills and Ms French appealed for youth workers, secondary school teachers and other professionals to get in touch and help get teenagers involved in the campaign.
Project Paddington can be contacted through the Project Paddington Facebook page, @ProjectPadding1 on Twitter, Instagram Project Paddington UK or by visiting www.projectpaddington.com.