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Who we are

Leigh Bell

Trustee & Founder Member

Wendy Myers

Trustee & Founder Member

Mel Steel

Trustee & Founder Member

Cathie Heart

Founder Member & Volunteer

About Us

Refugees START was formed in 2015 in response to the refugee crisis. A number of our founding members were in Lesvos and Dunkirk that year and witnessed the escalating humanitarian situation first-hand. Back in the UK, we joined forces with an established local group of volunteers known as Yorkshire Aid, so we could continue to send essential resources to asylum seekers, refugees and migrants in need. In time, we were asked to take over managing Yorkshire Aid, as their founding members moved on to other pursuits. Over the last few years our group has become better known  as Yorkshire Aid, rather than Refugees START), and as our work is now based in Yorkshire,  we amended our registration with the charity commission in 2019 to formally adopt this as our operating name*.


We are a small, active group of volunteers in the Leeds and York area, supported by donors, collectors and supporters across the region and further afield. Our main activities involve collecting, sorting and transporting much needed items to the support warehouses in Northern France and to camps and projects in Greece. We also offer regular support to local organisations providing services to people in need in Yorkshire.  If you would like to help us, we would love to hear from you!


For more details of what we are up to and how you can help please check out our facebook page:


*Our registration with the charity commission, all finances and governance are in the name Refugees START (operating name Yorkshire Aid).

Our Work
locally in
the UK 

We also work closely with Meeting Point in Armley, Leeds (, who work with asylum seekers and refugees in the local area. They run a wide range of drop ins/training/support activities and are always in need of food (for food parcels), clothes of all kinds, homewares, bedding, toys & books, etc. They also need duvets, pillows and small household appliances.

From time to time we also do targeted collections for specific projects – e.g. sanitary products to send to Greece. Details of these collections, and other needs requests from local groups in Yorkshire will be shared on our facebook page.

Our storage unit is currently hosted by Leeds City College at their Mabgate Campus. If you contact us (ideally via our facebook page), we can arrange drop off in various locations around Leeds / York and may also be able to collect depending on your location and volunteer availability.

Our Work
in France
& Greece

We collect items for Care4calais ( and Help Refugees ( in Northern France, and regularly make the trip to Calais as soon as we have enough supplies to fill a van.

Their needs lists are here, to give you an idea of their priority items

If you have something in mind that isn’t on either of these lists then please drop us a line before collecting/sending so we can let you know if it would be useful.


Help Refugees:


Leeds Festival Salvage


Help the environment and refugees in France by volunteering at Leeds Festival. Every year we collect vanloads of quality tents, sleeping bags, torches, cooking equipment and other lifesaving materials left at the festival, but there is always so much more going to landfill as we are unable to gather quickly enough in the two days allocated following the festival. Please sign up here if you are happy to be contacted with an invite to join the clean up crew after the August Bank holiday weekend next year.


Joining our new A Team Mailing list here (coming soon).


From time to time we have specific urgent requests, event opportunities, sorting tasks, or we get offered donations that require some sorting or fixing before we can send them on as useful items – e.g. recently we were donated 800 blankets – the only catch being they were all stapled together and needed separating!


If you are willing to be contacted to ask if you are able to support in such circumstances please sign up to our A Team list here.


Sharing Petitions, News Stories and Campaigns that we post


Your shares, likes and conversations about Yorkshire Aid are appreciated. They help our projects and the peoples’ needs gain greater visibility, and in turn more people become aware of the issues, and/or take positive action and become supporters of refugees, asylum seekers and migrants.


Storage / volunteering space


We have been very fortunate over the last few years to be hosted by:

Current – Leeds City College at Mabgate Campus.

2018/2020 – Space within Slung Low premises.

2017/2018 – A disused sports hall by Leeds City Council. 

However, we are always on the look out for additional spaces – particularly somewhere where we can bring our volunteers together to hold sorting sessions, and we are especially in need of this currently in the Leeds area.  If you, or anyone you know, might be able to help us in this respect (even on a short term, temporary basis) then we would absolutely love to hear from you.

Saving lives & providing comfort since 2015

Years Running

Calais Runs

Sleeping Bags

Get in Touch.
Get Involved.

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