I’m Orla, I’m 14 now but have been helping the refugees in Calais since I was ten. But even before then I was very worried about what happened to refugees. I was seven and a half when I first got involved I suppose. My mum has been my inspiration, she is always doing something to help so I wanted to help too. She’s very passionate about what she does and it has taught me a lot about how unkind the world can be to some people and how small acts of kindness can help so much.
I remember sorting through donations at night with her and making up toiletry packs for her to take to Dunkirk. I even counted hundreds of socks people had donated, we were always doing something for refugees. So I guess it was only natural I’d get more and more involved.
We went to Paris to do some work to help refugees when I was about nine. I remember walking along a street and seeing a family sitting on the pavement. They had a very small child with them, maybe two, who was asleep. I remember feeling very upset and I had to do something. So I asked my mum for the rest of my pocket money, I went back and gave it to them. I didn’t stop to talk or anything that time but since then I have wanted to help all I can. I told my mum we needed to play the lottery that week to see if we could win some money, I wanted to build a big hotel in Paris for all the refugees who were waiting for asylum there. I thought this would make them safe and the kids would be able to go to school.
When I was 10 I went to Calais with my mum, there was a lot of things I couldn’t do because I was too young, but my favourite memory is helping Lesley in the kitchen. We always made great food for the volunteers when she was there. The atmosphere in the warehouse was great, everyone made me feel welcome. I guess everyone was there for the same reason – helping the refugees.
I did go up to Dunkirk as my mum had friends there and she took me to meet some in the camp. It was a shocking thing to see how refugees live and some had children my age. It just made me more determined to help.
I’m lucky I guess I to have long blond hair and I had seen you could cut your hair and sell it to wig makers or be sponsored to have to cut off. So that’s how I decided to raise money. I donated my hair to raise money to buy things that refugees needed, just simple everyday stuff like soap, tissues, shower gel and biscuits and of course tea. My mum couldn’t live without tea so I know how important it is. I made almost 800 Euros and I went up to Calais to have my hair cut off by one of the refugees there. He was a barber back in his home country and volunteered in Dunkirk by cutting the refugees hair. Sadly when I got there he had gone to Belgium but a very talented volunteer cut it off for me at the warehouse.
I used the money to buy things the refugees wanted and that was a lot of sugar, hot chocolate, blankets and socks! I had great fun shopping for all these things but it was even better giving them out to people who wanted them.
I keep going back because I like being there and learning about the situation, and knowing I can help is an amazing feeling. I’m 14 now and will soon be able to go on distributions as well. Well in three years!
In the future I want to be more involved with climate change and supporting people in need. Climate change is going to cause so many more people to be refugees and I want to help stop this happening.