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Issue #1847      November 7, 2018

Care for Calais

“I thank Care4Calais for providing me with experiences that have changed my life and – I believe – made me a better person. I will continue to spread the word about the situation in northern France and make the 700-mile round trip to volunteer on the ground when I can manage it. I would urge anyone who has ever thought about volunteering to get in touch via www.care4calais.org and just do it. It will be a trip you will never forget. And if you need any advice just give me a shout!” Debbie Mossman, Care4Calais volunteer.

When the Jungle was in place, refugees made it their home – there was a community, running water, sanitation, medical centres and structure.

October 26, 2018 witnessed the second anniversary of the Calais refugee camp, known as the Jungle, being demolished. At that time refugees, who had already faced persecution in their homelands, were yet again forced to relocate. Nine thousand refugees were required to move in 48 hours. For those volunteering at the time, it was heart breaking.

When the Jungle was in place, refugees made it their home – there was a community, running water, sanitation, medical centres and structure. Charities worked tirelessly to provide the aid they so desperately needed – many refugees having walked thousands of kilometres to get there. Today, without the Jungle in place, refugees face life with no sanitation, no running water and no shelter. Health problems, both physical and mental, are rife.

Care4Calais is a humanitarian charity that provides much-needed aid to the refugees in northern France. The heart of Care4Calais is the volunteers that give up precious time to help – from aid distributions, to practical help in the warehouse to compassion and emotional support. And, with the prospect of sub-zero temperatures as winter approaches, volunteer support is needed more than ever.

Debbie Mossman has been working as a volunteer since last year. Overwhelmed by the charity’s good work she has regularly given up her weekends and school holidays to provide invaluable help.

Debbie said of her experience: “Since first visiting Care4Calais – almost a year ago – I haven’t looked back. From the moment I walked in to the Warehouse in Sangatte last November I was made to feel welcome and valued as an important member of the ever-changing team of volunteers. I have returned several times since my first visit, inspired by an organisation that is working tirelessly to help refugees in northern France and that makes the experience for volunteers truly meaningful.”

Some volunteers at Care4Calais work for long periods, others come for weekends, others just a day. They are all welcome and each provides invaluable support.

Debbie continues: “I have always felt very strongly that the role of the short-term volunteer is immensely important. Volunteers, who give their time for anything from a day to a week or even a month, bring with them an energy and enthusiasm that is the lifeblood of these organisations.

“The value of providing these volunteers with a positive and memorable experience can be measured by the continued support from communities to which they return, ‘spread the word’ and encourage others to get involved. It’s importance cannot be underestimated and is recognised in the day-to-day operations of Care4Calais.”

A year ago, Debbie was working as a mentor with sixth-form students in a large comprehensive school in west Wales. Their growing interest in her work with refugees led to a group of students organising collections throughout the school to create #Packs4Calais. As a result Debbie landed at the Care4Calais warehouse in November with 68 backpacks filled with basic clothing, food supplies and toiletries. As you can imagine, Care4Calais welcomed her with open arms!

What’s more Debbie was fortunate enough to witness her collection being passed to the refugees, which reinforced their value. “Distribution of these packs was carefully orchestrated so that refugees were not left wanting when the backpacks ran out. At Care4Calais, refugees are always offered a choice of items with an equal value. Fortunately, we had had a delivery of coats on my visit which meant I could actually see refugees receive our gift, which was very special.

“But what hit me most was that the huge effort made at home barely scratched the surface in France – the need is so great out there – and distribution of such high-value donations is a seriously difficult job to manage. Every distribution whether it is highly valued items such as shoes, coats, tents and sleeping bags, or simple hygiene packs, food packs, T-shirts or underwear, is managed so that fairness is always ensured.”

Distributions take place every day throughout northern France and Belgium and every volunteer is encouraged to go out on distribution, play their part in handing out items and then mix and integrate with refugees and offer some support and solidarity with them all.

The system in place at Care4Calais allows every volunteer the opportunity to be fully involved in all aspects of the work and provides a truly rewarding experience for all their volunteers.

“In August, I took two of my students out to volunteer for a week. A memorable week has left its mark on both of them; Anna is now off to gain more volunteering experience in Africa and Emily will be in Edinburgh University spreading the word among fellow students about the continuing need for support for refugees in France. Young people are our future – they care and their experiences at Care4Calais have helped to shape their attitudes and future actions.

“Since my first visit I have been out with over 250 hygiene packs (toiletries and underwear) sacks of donated clothes, tents and sleeping bags and have raised over £3,500 in order to buy what is most needed at the time. This has included clearing the supermarket shelves of wet wipes and deodorants and emptying a local shop of ladies’ dresses.

“My most recent fundraiser enabled the purchase of 250 pairs of joggers, hair-cutting equipment, phone credit and children’s games. Every visit sees priorities change and the continued support from my local community enables us to make a difference in a way that really matters. The need is constant – it is a constant battle to try to spread the word and bring in donations.”

Morning Star

Next article – Solidarity call – Colombian lawyer Diego Martinez needs your support

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