Meet Sandra – when hospitality becomes activism
People, in general, have a misleading idea of the reality for refugees – as did I. My knowledge was mostly based on media articles. Before coming to Calais, I struggled to fully appreciate what refugees have experienced and who they are.
These people have lost so much. Many of them have lost their wives, husbands, sons, and daughters. Now in Calais, they face extra hardships from the police. They confiscate or destroy the refugees’ tents, often without warning.
But where there is loss and grief, there is also ambition and resilience. Out of the hundreds of refugees I met, lots of them have a diploma or were university students. Jamal, a Law student from Sudan, told me: “How painful it is when you see the world enjoying life, and you are looking for life?” Refugees just need a safe home and a fair system so that they can live out their dreams.
In the UK, I am a manager at a luxury hotel in London. So providing exceptional hospitality for guests is what I am used to doing. Until volunteering with Care4Calais, I never thought hospitality could be a form of protest, or that this experience would be the start of a journey in my life.
In the Hospitality industry, there’s the expression: “home away from home”. Home is where you feel comfortable and loved. Each day on distribution, the refugees became our guests. We would be there whatever the weather. Through care, love, and happiness, we would transform an empty piece of land into a feeling of home. Guests could charge their phones and order hot drinks. Any preferences? A triple hot chocolate on the way! Whilst we did not have pillows to change, we gave out blankets to warm their nights.
Some of them are alone with no one to call friend and police evictions only make things worse. But by providing a feeling of home, even if it is temporary, we are protesting against unfairness. We act. I am proud of this way of fighting back – with kindness. Being back in the UK now, I am looking forward to continuing volunteering with Care4Calais.
– Sandra, volunteer
To volunteer in Calais email [email protected]