Big smiles after first huge distribution in Barnet
Getting lovely messages like these from the refugees we support in the UK makes me so happy. My friend sent me these after our first proper distribution in Barnet this week. He couldn’t make it to the distribution himself, but he told me he saw many people coming back to the hotel that day with big smiles on their faces. Music to my ears!
The Barnet distribution was a perfect example of solidarity in action too. So many different volunteers and organisations came together to make it happen – even the weather decided to cooperate to make sure we had the best and sunniest day possible.
First there were the local churches. One offered us two storage rooms for donations and the other gave us a distribution space just a 15-minute walk away from the hotel. It was surprisingly easy arranging this: all I did was look up churches, mosques, community centres and football clubs near the hotel and then got in touch with each one to see if they could help. One of the churches even offered us a volunteer-run polytunnel where refugees can go to do some gardening, which is brilliant for people’s mental health.
Then came the amazing London community. People donated heaps of good-quality clothes, shoes and other goodies to make sure our distribution space was packed with options for the hundreds of people at the hotel. It was wonderful to see everyone browsing, trying things on and finding the perfect winter items to keep them warm.
Last but not least the incredible team over at Goods for Goods joined in. They dropped by on the day in a big white transit van and flung open the back doors to reveal boxes upon boxes of more donations. As soon as the guys saw this they rushed outside to help unload – they wouldn’t let us carry a single box!
Unfortunately, around 30 men in the hotel were transferred to the Folkestone barracks just two days before our distribution took place. Me and the other residents waved them goodbye from the bus that day. It was quite an emotional experience, but at least I know we have several volunteers down in Kent who are ready to welcome them there too.
After such a great distribution and with the help of all these wonderful people, I’m pleased to report that we will be repeating this every other week. Even people who don’t need anything will be welcome to pop by for a tea and a chat. Sometimes that can be the most valuable thing of all.
To volunteer in the UK go to care4calais.org/uk
To donate winter clothes to refugees in the UK go to care4calais.org/thedropoffmap