I’m just back from our latest humanitarian aid mission in Calais, France supporting our friends at Care4Calais who do amazing work 365 days a year helping those less fortunate than ourselves.
When we first started our fundraising in order to help the refugees in France, we set out a clear objective that was realistic & achievable, or so we thought, this was our ethos; ‘That we raise funds to purchase winter boots and other urgently needed items and deliver them to refugees in camps within France’.
This was the brainchild of one of our founding members Ann McKechnie who after seeing the picture of the dead child (Alan Kurdi) being carried out of the water in 2015 said to her husband Ron (our treasurer) ‘I’m going to jump in the car (a mini) & take blankets to help the refugees in the jungle’ once Ron rationed with her and promised to do it on a much bigger scale, That started the work which we continue to this day. This was our 9th aid mission & was dramatically different from the 1st, but no less harrowing.
On the first one, we witnessed first-hand the living standards within ‘The Jungle’ & also the camp at
‘The Grande Synthe’ in neighbouring Dunkirk. Many reading this can recall the images that these places will conjure up in your memory but believe me the situation today is far worse than that reality, because there are no established camps anymore, there is no cohesion and being brutally honest It is far easier to deliver aid where 100 or 200 people have congregated & are living (If you can call it that) than the reality of today where they exist in pockets of about a dozen or so around the undergrowth of disused industrial grounds.
Now, Care4Calais do daily trips to where they will congregate but they are limited as to what they can distribute at any one time, usually, food is the priority, as well as basic toiletries, are the essentials.
So back to our mission, we held in conjunction with SAFR a collection of donations that we could deliver to C4C to add to their stock within their warehouse, we had bought a van out of existing funds which we would drive over to France with what we collected at that event last Saturday, Unload at the warehouse & as well as what was unloaded, we also gifted the van to C4C to use on a daily basis as they had their own transport issues.
We took jumpers, coats, socks, boots, Jogging bottoms (denim gets wet) hats, scarfs, gloves also a variety of food items, all to add to their stock which they would prioritise & distribute in the coming weeks & months ahead.
So, after the long, arduous journey from Scotland, (which we paid for ourselves), a good 11 hours’ drive saw us boarding the ferry on Friday early evening, losing another hour in the time change.
We got to our hotel about 8pm, checked in, had dinner & some well-earned liquid accompaniments before retiring for an early start on Saturday. Once we had breakfast (again paid for ourselves).
We got to the warehouse ready to unload our van and signed in for H&S reasons & attended the briefing on the days objectives ahead which were to go to various points (there were over 50 volunteers that day) in order to distribute some much needed items as well as supply tea & coffee and set up the generator which allows the refugees to charge up their mobile phones & utilise the free WI-FI hotspot as well as hand out top-up cards.
We then set off on a shopping trip to buy some fresh fruit & other items that are difficult to obtain by the group on a daily basis. Once we were done that we joined the main group in their distribution process, where we saw first-hand people emerge from the trees & the backwoods of the industrial site.
Most grateful & smiling, happy of the help that was given, It would be wrong for me to suggest that there were no signs of unrest & division but the experience of C4C was able to diffuse that.
Whilst we were there Clare Mosely who is the coordinator in chief for Care4Calais informed us that there was a delegation of around 80 activists from Stand up to Racism from London visiting them & they were going back to a youth centre where a Labour MP was offering his reflection on the day’s proceedings.
We went along but were not invited to engage in his chat, nor did he approach us to ask what we were doing there which was slightly disturbing.
All in all, it was another successful mission, we had achieved what we had set out to do & Clare & her team were grateful that we had driven all the way from Scotland in order to help them.
On the way home, we resolved our next fundraiser to allow us to do our next mission in late May, which no doubt we will keep you all informed as to its developments of.
One last thing, this refugee issue is ongoing, just because the right-wing media choose not to report on it doesn’t make it go away, the UK Government were complicit in why they are there yet do very little in order to alleviate the challenges that they face.
Whilst we do our utmost to directly help those brave volunteers who give up weeks of their time & finance themselves in doing so YOU could help by sharing this experience on social media & to your branches.
Eastwood Refugee Aid would be more than happy to come along to talk to your branch in order to directly update you on the current situation faced by Care4Calais & by the refugees that they help.
If you wish to do this, please get in touch.
Eastwood Refugee Aid
VC SNP Socialists.