My name is Georgia, I’m from Cyprus originally but I have British citizenship now. I’ve been helping Care4Calais since August 2020. I got involved after seeing the refugee situation in Greece – nowadays I’m lead volunteer for the north London group of hotels! It’s very time consuming but so worthwhile.
Right now we’re working hard on distributing donations of clothes and other essentials to the new Afghan refugees.
We did our first distribution for them a couple of weeks ago, and it was heartbreakingly upsetting in many ways.
For that first distribution, I got in contact with the hotel and invited refugees to come. Then we went to meet them, and lead them to the venue, so we wanted to be sure they could find it.
I felt like the Pied Piper walking around London with everyone following me. It was quite funny really; everyone was looking the wrong way for the traffic and in totally the wrong clothes for London in October
Two hundred people came along, many in flip flops and T-shirts, and with lots of mums carrying little ones along the half-hour walk from their hotel. We knew the need was great, but this really brought home how great it was.
With distributions, you learn what works best from experience, and we’ve found that things feel better with smaller groups.
At the last one, we had a quick lesson on how queues work in the UK so that everyone understood how things would go, and we tried to assure people we had enough to go around and couldn’t allow cutting in. As our time window is limited, we have to be strict about the amount of time we allow each person to look for things. I’m very bad at this, far too soft, but luckily other team members are much tougher than me, and keep things rolling!
And if people don’t find exactly what they want, they know we’ll be back again and there’ll be another chance.
Some of the Afghan people were so bewildered when they first arrived in the UK. For some, the UK seems very alien – we do things very differently, and there is so much to learn and do in order to make a life here. The Afghans tend to like different things to the young refugees we’ve become used to. They like smart shoes and shirts, not the usual trainers and skinny jeans. The women want beautiful traditional clothes with pretty headscarves. Mirrors and makeup are in high demand, as are clothes and equipment for kids.
The distributions can take a long time, and some days I’m so tired when I get home, but I know it’s worth it to support these people who need our help. They’re anxious about what will happen next to them, and their patience and dignity amazes me.
We talk to them and tell them there are Care4Calais volunteers all over the UK, so we’ll be there for them – and we will.
We’re doing all we can to help, but we could really do with more help – if you have the time to help please join us: you’ll meet such interesting people and I assure you that you’ll find it incredibly worthwhile. Just email [email protected]