‘Cornwall Hugs’ founder, Esmé Page, has been honoured with one of this year’s Lambeth Awards given by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby.

The Langton Award for Community service recognises Cornwall Hugs for “answering the call to provide holidays of hope to residents and firefighters who experienced the trauma and loss in the terrible fire in Grenfell Tower.”

“The award recognises Cornwall’s unbridled compassion,” says Esmé. “The big heartedness and ‘can do attitude’ that are part of our county’s DNA. This award is for every man, woman, child and business who helped. I wish I could share it physically with the thousands of people who worked so hard to make it happen.’

The fire at the West London tower block in June 2017 resulted in 72 deaths. Following the disaster Esmé felt called by God to find a way to offer respite for survivors, the bereaved and firefighters. Cornwall Hugs was born. Since then, through acts of local generosity, the charity has offered over 480 holidays in just three years.

“I remember a lady standing on the beach saying ‘this is the first time I feel free of the fire’, recalls Esmé. “It was a sensory antidote to the trauma, but there have also been practical and emotional benefits. Children sleeping better after days romping by the sea, mothers finding space to process their own grief. Kids re-gaining confidence at school and the family who hadn’t been able to draw back their curtains a year and a half after the fire, were able to do so for the first time after their break in Cornwall.”

“The survivors, who felt neglected before and abandoned after the fire. “One of the most important things Cornwall was able to offer was a sense of ‘we see you, we value you, we love you, we offer you what we have, this beautiful sanctuary and whatever peace, healing and hope it can bring.’

But the experiences have also enriched those in the county who have helped. “Over and over again we heard from individuals and businesses how it had blessed them. Our Grenfell friends have so much much to teach us about courage, resilience and grace. It’s such a joy to know them,” says Esmé.

During the Covid-19 crisis, Cornwall Hugs has again used its experience to meet an urgent need. Volunteers and generous holiday providers once more rallied. They provide isolation accommodation, enabling front-line care workers to continue their vital work while protecting both loved ones at home and their vulnerable clients.

The Archbishop Justin Welby said: “This year’s Lambeth Awards recipients … embody this spirit of service – not just during the pandemic but, for many of them, through decades of faithful work. I commend them and their efforts, and look forward to the time when we meet to celebrate their contributions to society.”

Marking the bond between the two communities of Cornwall and Kensington, the two hundred year old Grenfell St in Mousehole was given a special new street sign featuringthe iconic green Grenfell heart, unveiled by survivors and the bereaved in August 2019. “The solidarity we have with Grenfell United has been cemented forever,” says Esmé. We stand with them as they fight for housing safety for everyone. Their work is phenomenally courageous and it’s a great support for them to know that people 300 miles away care what they are doing,” she says.