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Staff grieve as nursery worker dies in Grenfell Tower fire

22-Jun-17
Article By: Angeline Albert

Nursery worker Farah Hamdan died from smoke inhalation on the 20th floor of Grenfell Tower, after fire broke out shortly before 1am on 14 June.

Former LEYF nursery worker Farah Hamdan with her missing baby Leena and another daughter found in hospital  Credit: Facebook

Thirty-one year-old Farah Hamdan died with her husband Omar Belkadi inside Grenfell Tower, and has officially been named a victim of the fire but her six-month-old daughter Leena Hamden is still missing.

Mrs Hamdan previously worked at Katharine Bruce nursery, which is run by London Early Years Foundation (LEYF). After searches for Mrs Hamdan at hospitals, her relatives found two of the nursery worker’s daughters Malek, aged seven, and Tazmin, aged six, in a critical condition at St Mary’s hospital but no sign of her, her husband or baby Leena.

Mrs Hamden’s cousin Adel Chaoui said the former LEYF nursery worker had called her sister, after the fire started in the early hours of the morning.

Ms Chaoui told The Telegraph: “She was begging her, saying: ‘What should I do? What should I do?’

"And eventually when her sister saw that people were being told to get out, get out now, she told her to do that.

“As I understand it, she was blocked from doing so. If that’s blocked by smoke, by fire, or officials or neighbours, I don’t know."

London-born Mrs Hamdan's body was recovered from Grenfell Tower on 15 June and pronounced dead at the scene. She died of smoke inhalation and, like her husband, was identified by her dental records.

Coroner Dr Fiona Wilcox opened the inquests of five Grenfell Tower fire victims, including Mrs Hamdan and her husband, on 21 June, saying she couldn't imagine the agony endured by those who died in tower.

"She was a very calming person" said Yvonne Cadore, nursery manager at Katherine Bruce Nursery where Mrs Hamdan worked before leaving to go on maternity leave several years ago.

"She was quiet, quietly confident but was funny and could give and take a joke.

"I can't believe Farrah's gone."

"We got together and had a staff meeting where we all talked about our feelings".

"We're trying to remember the good times. We hope her daughter who survived the fire will come to the nursery to visit one day. We are thinking of creating a memory book of her mum for her with some old photographs and memories."

LEYF has set up a confidential line for the nursery's staff to talk to trained bereavement counsellors,

’Gave staff a hug’

Grenfell Tower Credit: Channel 4 News

The chief executive of LEYF June O’Sullivan tweeted: ‘Very sad @leyfonline staff coming to terms with news of death of previous staff member and family #grenfelltower time for hugs and kindness’.

Ms O’Sullivan visited Katharine Bruce nursery and "gave the staff a hug." She said: " They were very upset, especially one staff member who had remained friends with her.”

’Shocked' by what they saw from their windows

After hearing about the fire, the chief executive visited two LEYF nurseries close to the tower: the Colville and Queensborough nurseries. As some of the staff lived locally, they saw the fire and knew people in the tower. Staff were described as "very shocked and distressed" because of what they had seen from their windows.

The nursery group’s staff have helped collect clothing and nappies for the families left homeless and the group is offering nursery places to families now living in temporary accommodation.

How to talk to the children

The question of how staff can answer children’s questions about tragedies such as the Grenfell fire has led to the LEYF group collating ideas from its 38 nurseries to help support children when they face tragedy and trauma, which includes ideas such as art therapy and role-playing. Guidance for early years practitioners on how to support children though trauma is already available for free from the National Day Nurseries Association and Pre-School Learning Alliance websites.

Fire safety

Since the fire, LEYF’s area managers have been asked to check nursery fire evacuation records, instigate a fire evacuation and ensure all nurseries are fire safe environments.

Parent and nursery's child missing

Action for Children, which has two nurseries close to the Grenfell Tower has said a parent and her young child, who attends one of the nurseries is missing, presumed dead. Clare Gardens and St Quintin Day Care nurseries, situated near Grenfell Tower, has staff and families directly affected by the the fire and the loss of human life.

As a result of the blaze, some 79 people are either dead or missing presumed dead.

The early years sector rallies to help Grenfell Nursery, with Surrey nursery offering to donate equipment Credit: Facebook

Grenfell Nursery, which was situated on the ground floor of Grenfell Tower, lost everything in the fire, is appealing for resources and funds.

The early years sector is responding to the nursery’s appeal for help, with nurseries organising fundraising activities including cake sales. After reading the daynurseries article on 19 June about Grenfell Nursery, one early years practitioner contacted daynurseries.co.uk to say her nursery was moving premises and was keen to donate nursery equipment to the Grenfell Nursery.

All donations for Grenfell Nursery can be made via its JustGiving page which, to date, has raised over £11,000

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