Locals raise funds to re-unite man with family after 54 years

Alexander Steve, pic: Des Burkinshaw

The local community in Hackney are raising money to send a cherished local resident home to visit his parents for the first time in 54 years.

In 1957 Alexander Steve, 65, came to London from Jamaica to work as a mechanic in Stamford Hill. Since his arrival he has not been back or seen his parents. Today, the local people of Clapton and Hackney are trying to raise money to get him on a long overdue trip home.

Des Burkinshaw, filmmaker and initiator of the fundraising, met Steve at the local cafe Chez Sam in Clapton, where Steve daily sits and gets his coffee.

Burkinshaw says: “We got to talking over a cup of coffee and that was when he told me he had not been back since 1957, he never had the money to go.”

Steve lives in Lower Clapton and is now retired. His state pension covers bills and rent, but not much else. Steven never married so most of his family are in Jamaica.

Burkinshaw started asking friends and family for small donations, but after having “exhausted their generosity” he reached out to the community for a helping hand.

He posted a post on Yeah Hackney, which generated a lot of interest and attention. That resulted in Father Rob Wickham at St. John Church in Hackney and Sam Bellamin, the owner of Chez Sam starting to fundraise.

So far Burkinshaw has raised £750, but needs an additional £500 to get him on a flight to Jamaica. With the average donation of £10 per person, only 50 more people need to chip in.

“Steve has been coming to Chez Sam everyday for three years. He is very exited to visit Jamaica again,” says Sam Bellamin, owner of Chez Sam.

When Burkinshaw began raising money, he tried contacting Virgin and British Airways, but neither of the two airlines was interested in helping.

“It really annoys me, because for them it is just one seat on a plane. It is just corporate greed,” says Burkinshaw.

Both Virgin and British Airways say that they occasionally offer one off charity tickets, but only to charities of their own choosing.

“Sometimes I think people assume that people like Steve are happy just staying in England and never going home.” says Burkinshaw.

But he say,  despite its bad reputation, Hackney is full of caring people who can put themselves in Steve’s shoes: “I don’t see myself as a Good Samaritan or anything, I just think it is human compassion to help where you can.”

To donate please get in touch with Sam Bellamin at Chez Sam. You can also follow the progress on their Facebook group. (http://www.facebook.com/pages/Send-Steve-home-to-Jamaica-for-first-time-since-1957/138661926223544)

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