‘This has changed me’: Outgoing volunteer shares her story
Heidi has been with us in Calais for just over two weeks. The theatre-maker from Liverpool was among the first group of workers in the UK to have their work closed last month and she decided to go to Calais immediately.
Before she left, she told us about her experience.
“I work in the Everyman and the Philharmonic theatres in Liverpool, and they had to close because of the rule about mass gatherings.
“I was planning to come out anyway. I’d booked a week, and then all this stuff kicked off, and my job closed, and I thought I can go earlier, and I can stay longer.
“It’s something I’ve been wanting to do for ages. My mum does a lot of work with refugees and has been out to Greece. I met someone who had already volunteered for Care4Calais, who recommended it to me as a really great experience.
“There have been huge changes in the way we’re having to operate. It’s rapidly changing and every day’s been very different. If anyone is on furlough, I’d tell them that this is a really valuable and really necessary thing to do, if they are able. We’re struggling for numbers, and it’s really important that all the people that are living in these camps don’t feel abandoned.
“I know that every time I do something that directly helps someone – like every time I pack a food pack and give it to someone – I know that has made a difference to that person’s day, and has helped in some way. Even though that’s really tiny.
“A lot of people said you could join a mutual aid group at home, which I did. I picked up a couple of prescriptions for elderly people round Liverpool, but there are so many people in Britain who have stepped up to volunteer and help, so I feel that being here and recognising that not many people are, is really important.
“I think what has struck me is just the hugeness of everything. It’s a really strange time because this seismic shift is happening for everybody, and it is really humbling to recognise that. I’ve always been aware when hearing refugee stories that that could be me. The only thing is that, in the wheel of life, I’ve just got lucky.
“It can be really windy and dusty here, and one day I got to come home and wash my hair, and I’d never felt so lucky to be able to wash my hair in my life.
“The people I’m talking to in the camps every day are ten times cleverer than me, and ten times more intelligent than me, and just incredible, incredible people. It makes me sure that no human should be in this situation. Borders are man-made and I know this is something I’m really passionate about and I’m going to fight for: we are no different.
“Across the world, the virus makes us recognise that people are just people.
“I’ve felt that going at this time has changed me. It’s good to realise that’s I’m able to do and I think that will shift the way I see things in the rest of my life.
“When I get home, I’ll be in quarantine for two weeks, because the virus is in the camps, but then I’ll be volunteering in my home area. But I’d quite like to learn some Arabic. It will be quite a task, but is something I would like to do.”
Please support our urgent appeal to see refugees through this terrible time here.