Meet the 58-year-old volunteer spending lockdown in Calais
You may remember the story of Pauline, a 58-year-old retired teacher and grandmother who has volunteered with us in the frontlines of the Calais camp since 2015.
Pauline, from Newport in Wales, booked her latest volunteering trip to Northern France at around the same time that central government announced a national lockdown. She could have returned home to her husband and children, but she instead decided to stay and help.
When she wrote a blog post for us back in March, Pauline said that the marginalisation and rife inequality in Calais drive her to help.
Like many others, I find such disparity unacceptable and Care4Calais has given me an opportunity to act, to stay ‘on the right side of history’, and to enrich my own life with a sense of purpose.
Now, Pauline has been interviewed by the BBC about her decision to stay in Calais over the past six weeks. She spoke of the terribly difficult conditions in the camp, particularly during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“About 10 days to two weeks into my stint over here coronavirus reared its ugly head in the camp and that was a complete game-changer. At that point it was a question of ‘do we carry on, can we do this safely?'”
“When we go out on distributions we wear two sets of gloves, two masks and makeshift overalls, so we’ve had to use what we could find,” she said.
“It just seems incongruous to me that in the 21st century, you can let people rot in a field and that is what is happening here,” said Pauline.
“So it’s very necessary that their basic needs are met because they are such a vulnerable group. Nobody’s got their back”.
‘I’m learning and growing faster than I’ve done for years’
Pauline hasn’t seen her family in six weeks. When she returns to Wales, she will have to spend two weeks in isolation before moving back in with her husband. But writing for Care4Calais, she shared the positives of her experience:
There’s nothing glamorous about my working environment and the stakes are high so tensions sometimes run unchecked but I’m learning and growing at a faster rate than I’ve done for years. In a matter of days, I’ve become more efficient, more productive and more resilient. I’m doing what I ‘was cut out to do’ and that’s priceless.
With lower volunteer numbers due to the national lockdown, we need more help than ever before.