Meet Hannah, who traded scuba-diving for volunteering in Calais
Last month, Hannah was set to start work teaching scuba-diving in Mexico, but covid put a stop to that. She also plays organ at a church in London – that activity was lost to social distancing as well.
She decided to spend her new free time in Calais, and she wants other people to consider doing the same.
She said: “Even if you’re not in a position to volunteer or donate, even if the only action you can take is to hit the share button on a Facebook post, we should all take responsibility. It’s something we should all be talking about.
“I’ve done a lot of different types of volunteering before – anything from part-time work in the UK to helping out in a children’s home in Nepal – but nothing has been quite like what I’m doing with Care4Calais.
“Having volunteered back in January before the pandemic truly set in, I knew I would be coming back to a different, more desperate situation. I knew that the restrictions would mean it would be harder to transport food packs and distribute them. And it would be harder for volunteers to travel to Calais in order to help; food and clothing is useless when there is no one around to distribute it.
“I think it’s important people understand what we mean by ‘a desperate situation’. To me, it means being hungry for most of the day, being forced to wear dirty or ripped clothes, and being consistently worried about your own safety. It also means the stress of not knowing how you’re going to solve any of these problems and being powerless to implement any change. Being hungry is one thing, not knowing when that next meal is coming is another.
“What caught my eye was the lack of media attention the refugee crisis in France was receiving. I was shocked by how many problems still exist here and how little we hear about them back in the UK.
“The differences in volunteering at the moment are the extra work created by PPE and washing things and the extra paperwork (every time you are moving around you require a form). Otherwise we continue to respond to the needs of the displaced people as best we can with the resources that we have. It is an intense situation, but once you accept the hardship and injustice as a given, then it’s fun socialising with the other volunteers and with refugees. It’s good to feel useful and productive and the lunch is always good!”
Hannah listened to concerns from family and friends about the health risks of travelling to Calais to volunteer, but decided to come anyway. She said: “What people don’t realise is that the refugees have much bigger problems than coronavirus. They have very little food. They have few clothes. They have no shelter. Coronavirus is near the bottom of their list of priorities.”
To volunteer or donate, just click here.