Our food packs are about more than just food
Our food distributions are completely different to other distributions in Calais. For this reason I take new volunteers with me when I go in the early mornings to do the food.
We walk through the areas where people live. I want our volunteers to see this. They are always shocked. But it’s important to bear witness. No one should be living like this in Europe in 2022. We need to see it and we need to tell others. It’s not a sight you forget.
Then as people wake up we talk to them. This morning an older guy I know, Osman, invited us to drink tea with his group. When you are reeling from the shock of the conditions you start to see the dignity and resilience of the people we work with. The quiet smiles and acceptance. The determination to make the best of a horrific lot.
Osman was water boiling in a tin can on a wood fire. He apologised for not being able to offer us coffee, so I explained to the volunteer that coffee is way too expensive for us to put in our foodpacks. We had a pallet donated once and it was a fantastic treat. But our budget is incredibly tight. There is no way we can afford coffee.
Then we all sat down on wooden blocks and empty plastic containers. Osman carefully wiped one down so it was clean for my volunteer to sit on. Such care and politeness in this muddy field. Then he offered us sugar, carefully measured out as sugar too is valuable here.
Then the guys chatted to the volunteer and told him a little of their lives. And of course they all talked about football, as men always do. And when we stood up to go I could see something in the volunteer’s face. You could tell my gentle friend Osman had made an impression. Which was of course what I had hoped.
I chose this volunteer for a reason. He was only with us for two days. He came with his wife and you could tell it was her idea, that he was not entirely bought in.
As we started to walk away he asked me if it would be ok if he gave Osman something or would it embarrass him. I said yes sure just be discreet. And to my surprise this reluctant volunteer went back and emptied his whole wallet into Osman’s hands before quickly walking away.
When people meet the refugees and see they are ordinary, good people whom bad things have happened to, the basic human reaction is always to want to help. If only I could take more people on my walks around the camps.
Our food packs make it easier for people to meet and talk to each other, because they contain ingredients that they can prepare and eat in their own time. They offer a completely different experience from having to queue for hot food doled out into dishes. Food is so important as a means for people to come together and socialise, which helps to restore feelings of humanity and dignity,
Please help us buy more foodpacks, and put more sugar in each one at care4calais.org/urgent-food-appeal/