Morgan Morris @MorganM12264903 | Image: Wikimedia Commons
Caroline Kerr, founder of ‘BRAS NOT BOMBS’, sits down and talks about the ins, outs, ups and downs of the organization
You can probably still picture it in your mind. The ghastly, stiff body of a three-year-old boy lying face down on the beach. It’s the sort of image that stays with you forever.
That boy was Alan Kurdi, who tragically lost his life during the European refugee crisis that exploded in 2015 and continues to this day. The heart breaking images surfaced on the internet and were seen by most of the world – including Caroline Kerr, a Nottingham-based mother of two. When speaking with Caroline about the Kurdi tragedy she said “I could never tell that story without crying, I could never actually say his name without being really emotional.”
After seeing those dreadful images Caroline immediately “used Facebook to ask if anybody wanted to send or how we could send something out to [the refugee camps in] Calais or Greece.” After the Facebook group was born, “a few people got together in Beeston in a pub, people came from Leicester, Derby and Nottingham.” After giving the newly made group some exposure people from their respective cities came together to start “pulling money to start making trips and sending aid.” While that was taking place, the exact same thing was happening in more cities across the country. “And what came from that was this huge network of groups at Paris, Calais, Dunkirk and Greece”.
One day, a volunteer told Caroline a story about the conditions facing women at the refugee camps. “There were women, children and pregnant women stepping off boats with no underwear. And I think in that moment of just sharing that exasperation, I sent out messages saying there is no underwear here, nothing to give the women”. On Valentine’s Day 2016, Caroline “made a Facebook group and shared it with my networks that were already working and they shared it and people joined”. “Bras Not Bombs” was born.
“Suddenly tiny little packages started arriving through the post, then they turned into bigger packages, and then they turned into boxes”, she remembers. After this exponential expansion the team of volunteers “opened a Paypal account and a GoFundMe and people started donating, we started buying underwear in bulk and sent it out and things just spiraled from there.”
Bras Not Bombs is dedicated to providing vulnerable women and girls fleeing violence and war with underwear and sanitary products. Along with helping girls and women in need in different parts of the world, Caroline’s company is “the go to for many women’s centres, whether it’s underwear, sanitary products – every time they ask for something we will take it over there.”
Caroline acknowledges that social media played a great part in the success of Bras Not Bombs. “It definitely has a lot to do with the media”, she says, which can very much be used for bad things but can also be used to make people aware of other things that are happening in this world. The overwhelming response to Caroline’s initial call to action on Facebook encourages her to keep expanding Bras not Bombs, allowing the organisation to help as many girls and women as possible. But in order to do that, the organisation will always need new volunteers. As a post in the Facebook group puts it, the people involved are simply “humans helping other humans. Get involved.”