Responding to the Cumbria floods

Cumbria has seen floods in 2005 and 2009 but nothing like it in 2015. Lives were lost, thousands of homes wrecked, and businesses destroyed.

In all, more than 5,500 homes and 1,000 businesses were flooded; thousands of people were left homeless. For some, it was the third or fourth time they had seen their homes devastated by flood water in a decade.

There was always one thing stronger than the flood waters – the spirit of Cumbria which again showed our county at its most resilient and compassionate best in a time of extreme need.

It was a spirit that drove people together to do anything they could to help those flooded out of their homes. Volunteers appeared from every direction to donate food, clothes and other essentials, and others gave their time to help start the clean-up operation.

Their example and the thousands of pictures and videos circulating on social media inspired people further afield to offer their help. Supermarkets provided food, faith groups visited Cumbria with donations, and ordinary people just filled up their cars with shopping and drove halfway up the country to give it to Cumbrians in need.

We launched the Cumbria Flood Recovery Appeal before the rains of Storm Desmond had even stopped: this tells its own story about the extraordinary outpouring of generosity which did so much to help the county recover from the worst flood in living memory.

Within days, the appeal had surged past its original target of £1m and went on to distribute almost £10m (thanks to match funding from the Government) with more than £7.2m given to flooded families and a further £2.6m to community groups.

The appeal helped people with practical, financial and emotional support, and it also helped residents and communities to develop resilience schemes which will assist future flood defence and recovery. Many people are still suffering from stress and anxiety about the prospect of flooding in the future.

The appeal was audited to evaluate its impact and statistics were produced to show how it had supported residents, community groups and businesses in their hour of need.

One comment made to the researchers captures the importance of the appeal: “Without the grant, I would have been homeless and housed in temporary accommodation unsuitable for my disability for months. Cumbria Community Foundation made me feel human.”