Today was a good day, well except for the rain. It absolutely poured down and the wind was howling in off the channel. But we had a job to do, so we got ready and off we went.
Today we were distributing hoodies. This starts in the morning in the warehouse. Depending on which site we are going to the team leaders will tell us how many to prepare. Today we were going to take 200 hoodies to a small camp near the warehouse, the refugees there are mainly young Sudanese men.
First we have to go through the pre sorted boxes in the big warehouse to find enough of each size and then carefully recheck each hoodie to make sure there are no rips or tears in it, stains or other marks. Hoodies are a sort after item and so its an exciting distribution.
The sweatshirts were then loaded on to the van with everything else we were taking that day. After lunch we had a briefing on how to safely distribute and roles were assigned to everyone, we sometimes do a bit of role play to practise the roles but no one was new today so we knew what we were doing.
Today I was a line monitor, this is important as I have to watch the line to make sure there is no zig zagging going on or no one comes round twice. This was especially hard today as everyone was hunched up in their rain mac and I couldn’t see their faces. A few cheeky boys tried to get round twice but I caught them and they good naturedly moved out of the line. I also make sure everyone stands by a cone and doesn’t get too close to each other.
Even in today’s shocking rain everyone waited patiently, the refugees told us that it was OK to wait in our line because it was a fair line. It might take a bit longer, but no one can bully their way in or take two or three sweaters. The team does their best to make sure everyone gets a look in.
At the van the refugees are given a choice of two sweatshirts, three if they are unhappy. They can also change at a changing station away from the van if they really have to. It’s important to give people a choice, it gives them some feeling of agency when everything else has been taken away from them. They also want to look smart and fashionable and to fit in with the people of Calais. Tatty, ill-fitting clothes would just give them away as a refugee. I love to see them walk away from the van proudly holding a new, warm sweatshirt they have chosen, one that fits and is a colour or style they like. Adidas, Nike and North Face brands are hugely sort over but sadly we don’t get that many branded things.
In all today we gave out 171 sweatshirts, everyone seemed very happy with that. Afterwards we got stuck into the usual services: tea, games, bikes and sewing. That’s always the best bit about distribution – the time you get to talk to the people in Calais and get to know them. Even when I am so tired, and like today soaked to the bone and frozen, when I start to chat to the refugees, I come alive, I think we all do. We laugh and joke and talk, dance and sing with them, no matter how we are feeling inside. I think their resilience and positivity rubs off on us and we energize each other. It is always a great vibe.