I found the experience thoroughly rewarding
My name is Josie and I am a 31 year old secondary teacher from Essex. Before the old refugee camp in Durkirk was closed down, I had been there to teach. Since the French authorities closed down the big camps the people living there have disappeared from the news headlines and from many people’s minds. But I often wondered, where did all these people go? The answer is nowhere. There are still a vast number of families and young men living in unstable and terrifying conditions.
Last week, I took some time out of my summer holiday to volunteer for Care4Calais, a charity that delivers aid and provides social interaction to refugees in the Calais area. The week in itself left me with such a huge mix of emotions and it has taken me a few days to process the whole experience.
Initially, I was apprehensive about volunteering. The first hurdle was getting myself to Calais! Travelling alone, I was nervous about the logistics of arriving there. However, it was an easy ride to the ferry and staff at the charity provided me with clear arrival information, so I had no problem finding accommodation or the warehouse. Even though it is in France, in reality it is not that far away.
Whilst volunteering, the mornings were spent sorting donations and packing distributions. The afternoons were spent delivering aid. At some sites, this was as simple as handing out foodpacks and making tea and coffee. At others, we handed out clothes, provided electricity for phone charging, set up hair dressing services and played sports. At one site, there was even the opportunity for colouring and board games with the younger children.
It was heart breaking to see the conditions people are living in. They have lost their fundamental human rights. But spirits remain high and it was wonderful to see the joy and relief on people’s faces when the aid arrived. What a difference a shave and a hot drink can make.
I have come to the conclusion that I really have no idea what the answer to this refugee crisis is. However, these people fleeing in fear are human, just like you and me, and they deserve some kindness. Care4Calais offers them that. I met some fantastic people whilst volunteering with the charity. I loved meeting the other volunteers, the Care4Calais staff and the refugees. While some of the things I saw will haunt me for a long time, I found the experience thoroughly rewarding and I will certainly be back.
For more information go to https://care4calais.org/get-involved/