This lovely guy next to me is 22-year-old Hamdi from Sudan. We met a couple of months ago when I took him to a lawyer’s appointment and he’s since become one of our most dedicated volunteers. A few days ago I invited him to a clothing distribution near his hotel at 12pm, but when I turned up at 9.30am to set up everything he was already there waiting! He didn’t even offer to help – he just came down early and got stuck in.
Hamdi is one of three refugees in the hotel who volunteer with us, but we get more offers every time we stop by. At this rate we’re soon going to have a 50/50 split of locals and refugees in our core volunteer group, which is amazing – and useful too, because they know exactly what people at the hotel need.
The first to volunteer was Kenana, a Sudanese guy who first met Care4Calais in France and now helps us with translations and direct aid in the UK. Him and Hamdi make quite the team. They’re both absolutely hilarious, always cracking jokes and laughing with me (and sometimes at me, the cheeky chops, but as long as they’re smiling I’m smiling too).
The third is a young man from Iran who was struggling with this mental health. We invited him to come help us because even just getting out of bed can make a big difference mentally. Since then he’s been doing much better, leaving his room more often, making lots of new friends and feeling like he has a proper support network.
Volunteering locally helped me cope with this second lockdown much better, and I think it’s no different with the hotel residents. Sitting around would drive anyone mad, and volunteering is about more than just sorting clothes or translating stuff. It’s about the feeling of dignity and purpose that comes with offering support to others. The best thing we can do is help people to help themselves.
– written by Hannah Marwood, a UK volunteer