Meet Candice – our sewing superstar in Calais!
‘I was taken aback by people’s amazing resilience. People go from being very worried about the weather and where they’re going to sleep, to offering me some chocolate, sitting down and having a chat about where I’m from. It’s very humbling. We have a speaker and they always put Kurdish music on in Dunkirk. Sometimes I’d have to move when I was sewing because I was getting danced on, whilst I was trying to mend a guy’s trousers as he was still wearing them!
The guys can make it a fantastic day for us when we can share in dancing, music and games. But then we go home to our nice, warm houses. They’re out there in freezing weather. People apologise for the inconvenience of bringing something to be mended, but it honestly feels like the bare minimum we can do.
We need to get safe passage. They need to be able to legally cross over to the UK and start their asylum process. We can offer socks or food or a drink, but what they need most is safe passage. The work we do here is making a terrible situation slightly more bearable.
All the jobs we do are important but with sewing, I feel like I’m doing something that directly helps someone there and then. When someone comes to me with a coat that has tons of rips in and doesn’t protect them from the bad weather, I can give them back a mended, functioning coat. Or fixing a rucksack where the straps have fallen off, so that someone can carry their stuff around. I fixed someone’s necklace with a couple of stitches – not something that’s going to keep him warm or keep his feet dry, but just as important to him.
I stayed in Calais for the whole of winter, for 5 months in total. It’s been an absolute pleasure and I’ve met some of the most beautiful people – getting back to ‘normal life’, whatever that means, will definitely be an adjustment.
There were major highs and lows – and sadness to see new friends go, whether that’s volunteers or guys in the camps who have, thankfully, managed to achieve their goal of reaching the UK. It’s been a life changing experience, which will take a long time to come to terms with. I will definitely be back!’ – Candice, Care4Calais volunteer
To suport our work go to care4calais.org/donate.