Volunteer Charlotte finds hope and humanity in Calais crisis
Charlotte is one of the amazing team of volunteers still working hard at the forefront of Care4Calais’ work in northern France and Belgium. The 22-year-old from Barnsley brings huge passion and dynamism to the work.
She said: “One of the biggest benefits of Care4Calais staying here is providing a sense of hope. If I was in the refugees’ situation, with no help, I would have completely lost hope. These are times when we’re supposed to rely on humanity. If you are going through a crisis and there is no-one there to help at that point – when can you rely on anyone? At least we are showing that people can still care.
“We really are in this together. We can help and do what we can to provide what is needed to get us all through this, not just the refugees.”
Charlotte’s workplace was in one of the first sectors to close when the coronavirus measures were first introduced. It gave her the chance to do something she had wanted to do for a long time. She’s been here for around two weeks and hopes to stay for another week, or possibly two: “I wanted to do this long before this outbreak and I really want to go into humanitarian work. It’s my first time here, but I’ve wanted to come for ages, but it wasn’t possible because of work – I work in hospitality. But now work is closed back home, so I could come straight away.
“It’s an amazing experience. Very busy. Very challenging and something I have never experienced before. In fact, nothing I have experienced before has prepared me or could have prepared me for what I’ve experienced here. It’s been eye-opening – and inspiring.
“The daily work has changed because of extra measures put in place to keep people safe. So much of what we usually do, we can’t do now, and the procedures for safety and hygiene are taking up much more time than the actual food distribution. The preparation is so important because if you go out on distribution and you’re not prepared, the whole thing would just fall apart. We don’t want to be the reason for the spread of the virus. It could spread like wildfire.”
Charlotte has got stuck into all the daily activities with great energy, but some of the wider context has been challenging. She said: “I think there’s a lot of aspects that I have found difficult.
“Just seeing the way people are living and the governments and organisations doing so little to help, while we are trying to do so much with so little and have been given so little support. In times of crisis, people need more help, but they are receiving less now than they were before.
“I think the best way forward now is to put the refugees into accommodation. I was in Brussels last week and they had already put that in place. They’ve got electricity and running water. Those things are essential for human beings, not just refugees. It’s what any human being would want in any situation. But it’s been so slow coming.”
Charlotte speaks to her family regularly to find out how they are doing, but she tries to play down details of her own activities. She said: “I speak to my family every day, but because I don’t want to worry them, I keep it short. The more I say, the more it worries them. I try to keep it positive, because I know they would get into a state of panic.
“And of course, I’m worried about them. I’ve got younger siblings at home. But my parents are sticking to the rules and not going out.”
Charlotte has loved the experience of working in the volunteer team. She says she is in Calais because she believes it is essential as human beings to make things better, not just refugees, but for the benefit of us all – that will be the only way to beat this situation.
She said: “I’ve loved this experience. Care4Calais is a brilliant organisation. And the refugee crisis is something I’ve felt passionate about for a long time. But I really think this is not just a refugee crisis; this is a crisis of humanity.”
Refugees and migrants in Dunkirk and Calais are under threat from coronavirus (COVID-19) and also from lack of food. Please support our emergency appeal here.