Stirred by the negative response to a story of local generosity towards refugees, Express columnist Melissa Nobrega of Caring Cooks issues a rallying call for islanders to heed the lessons of the war ahead of Remembrance Day, and care for those both at home and abroad.
"I recently read an uplifting story of care, collaboration and cause between two local charities. The generosity of a local funder had supported the staff of Family Nursing and Home Care to have new smartphones, but also made the lives of 200 people in France a lot easier - refugees who have lost everything, and are desperate to let their families know they are alive.
"It immediately reiterated one of the many reasons I live in Jersey: we care about our own and others. So while the story has been resigned to the virtual fish and chip shop, it’s left a lingering foul taste in my mouth for the vitriolic comments it stirred up on social media.
"I’ve not been totally sheltered from undesirable behaviour towards others: I was terribly bullied at secondary school for having curly hair, spent childhood years surrounded by what would now be classed as BNP supporters, and more recently have been subjected to online abuse from a Jersey woman for my charity work. So intolerance creates a fire in me comparable to the ones that have raged through Madeira.
Pictured: Melissa says she was shocked by some comments left on a story about donating old mobile phones to refugees.
"I was horrified by the disgusting comments, and responded: 'I hope none of you ever experience war, losing your home, or your children dying. We live in Disneyland compared to the lives of these people. Your lack of compassion makes me ashamed to walk amongst my community some days.'
"Here we have near non-existent homelessness. Every citizen has a roof over their head and food to eat, and children aren’t dying in streets from hypothermia. Please don’t confuse me with saying we all live in luxury – through my work, I know the struggles that some face - but we have basic hygiene covered and, if we don’t, the caring environment allows you to access some form of support. Refugees can’t access support. So for them, a mobile that was likely to have been thrown away anyway is a gift of love and care when they’re really, truly at the depths of despair.
"'Spoken like a true import.' 'You don’t understand what our families went through during the war.' 'You have absolutely no knowledge of the history of Jersey or the UK… sad' - these were some of the comments I received for highlighting simply how lucky we are and that there are so many others less fortunate.
"I felt ostracised from my community. I may be an import, but did they know that? I have a Portuguese name, but could that be through marriage? All these assumptions are the same directed to those in Paris. They’re economic migrants or young men here to fight – but are they?
Pictured: Melissa says she felt "ostracised" from the Jersey community following comments and assumptions made about her on social media.
"Some assumed that I don’t understand what families experienced during the war, but my grandfather was enlisted at 16 to fight for his country; his family wondered if he’d ever return. I’ve spent hours listening to his stories, as well as those of elderly friends in Jersey. Atrocities occurred not just in Jersey, but many other nations.
"I proudly wear a poppy every year and am fiercely protective over preserving this part of our history. But this memory will erode if we don’t keep it alive. If we think we’ll do this be denying help to other human beings, we are sadly mistaken.
"Young people are growing up in a more accepting society, where gay people, transgender, Portuguese, Polish, anyone with blood gushing through their veins, should be treated as equal. As parents, we are educating children on treating others as you wish to be treated. When they see comments like the ones made recently, what will they think? Will they also be annoyed that we gave phones to the desperate or will they see this as an act of selflessness that they should follow?
Pictured: Honouring the heroes of the Great War is important, Melissa says, and doing so means sharing their spirit of caring for those both close to home and far away.
"Members of Facebook groups like ‘The Real Rock’ were many of those making the vitriolic comments. They believe they’re protecting the ‘real’ Jersey Way and that we must close ranks on others and not care for people outside of Jersey. But we do it every day. We fundraise for Red Nose Day and Children in Need, we buy clothes and furniture from charity shops – it’s part of everyday life. Perhaps there are 100 or so Real Rockers clinging to an old rock which is changing for the better? Let it go. We are here for one life. The hatred, anger and resentment towards others doesn’t make it better.
"In the words of Professor Stephen Hawking – 'Where there is life, there is hope' and that means respect for all lives, not just ours in Jersey."
Comments on this story express the views of the commentator only, not Bailiwick Publishing. We are unable to guarantee the accuracy of any of those comments.
Once your comment has been submitted, it won’t appear immediately. There is no need to submit it more than once. Comments are published at the discretion of Bailiwick Publishing, and will include your username.
There are no comments for this article.