Yesterday, our team in Calais distributed 182 pairs of trousers and 99 rucksacks at one site! Conditions are bitterly cold – the ground was still frozen when volunteers were out painting the social distancing markers earlier in the morning.
Two guys came up to us whilst we were doing it, totally soaked, to ask if we had any new clothes. The lining of their coats and pockets were absolutely full of water. They came back for the distribution later that day and we were able to give them some dry jogging bottoms. Even when we distribute new clothes regularly, living on the streets means that vulnerable people will be cold and wet again by the end of the next day.
The conditions and the frigid cold are difficult to imagine but for refugees in Calais, it is a daily reality. New clothes do not solve the issue – everyone should have shelter away from the elements, enough food to eat and a safe place to sleep. But small things like a new coat, bag or pair of trousers do make an enormous difference to people – especially at this time of year.
Despite this, everyone always has so much to say about the positivity we hear during conversations with refugees every day – Tia, told me today about how surprised she was that one guy she’d met previously recognised her, despite her not having visited a site since early September! Another volunteer, Natasa, told me the story of a guy she chatted to, who’d spent years learning English in the hope that one day, he could move to Glasgow. He said he realises that the weather will be pretty different there to his home country of Sudan! These moments are the ones which stick with me – to hear about the lives, interests and ambitions of those we work with, and develop friendships and connections along the way.
In winter we need volunteers in Calais more than ever to make sure our services can continue. To get involved email [email protected]