I noticed the young refugee helping the C4C volunteers on our distribution in Dunkirk, and I realised he was smaller than most of us. But it was raining heavily, and I couldn’t see his face well; it was only later that I realised how young he was.
He was helping us to pick up litter at the end. I got chatting to him, and he told me was from Egypt, and was just 16 years old. I felt so shocked and heartbroken for him; at that age he should have been in school, and being looked after, not here in northern France, facing hostility and danger every day. It was very hard to imagine a British kid going through what he must have experienced – all the more so because he could well have fled from Egypt when he was only 14 or 15.
And yet despite what he had been through, his friendliness and optimism were like sunshine on this murky, wet day. He was so keen to get to the UK, and convinced that once he got there his future would be bright. I really hoped it would be, but it was heartbreaking for me because I know how harsh the system is and that this future may take years to appear, if it ever does.
That meeting made me more determined than ever to work hard helping Care4Calais back home. In the UK one of the things I’m passionate about is helping child refugees who are treated as adults to be reassessed and properly housed, and I work with the Access Team to make that happen.
The home office often say that refugees who are minors are the wrong age, and label them as adults. It was awful to know that this could very well happen to the boy I met if he had no ID or proof of his age.
I do love working with the Access Team to help people like the young man I met that day. They give up anything from eight to 20 hours a week to find lawyers, sort out paperwork, and find interpreters – and of course this snowballs into all kind of help such as finding English classes, social clubs, access to healthcare. You name it we do it!
We always need more volunteers on the team, and it is such a rewarding role – so if you think you have ever thought about making a difference to someone’s life please join us! You really could make a huge difference to people who deserve a chance, and have so much to give.