Juliet, John and Hamoude went to Calais in November to volunteer with Help Refugees and take donations of socks, sleeping bags and blankets from Hull. Here is Juliet's report:
Three volunteers from Hull Help for Refugees are pitching in at the Help Refugees warehouse here in Calais. Many, many jackets have been sorted! Many, many blankets have been folded! The weather here is getting grim. Just normal for the time of year but the refugees are having to "dormer dehors" (sleep outside). It's wet. It's windy. It's cold.
The set-up is a mixture of small grass-roots organisations collaborating massive efforts. There are a number of projects operating from the site. One of them is the Refugee Community Kitchen, who are having to build a fully fitted commercial kitchen to cook 2000 meals a day to distribute to the young people sleeping rough in ditches, under hedges, in woods, in sewers etc.
The volunteers took £300 of the money raised by the Hull group at car boot sales and Fruit market stalls and have contributed this to the building fund. You can see the receipt below. So thankyou to all Hull volunteers manning stalls, sorting donations to sell, getting up at crack of dawn on a Sunday etc! Your efforts are appreciated so much. Here is the evidence again that what we do is really worth while.
The car we came in was STUFFED to the brim with sleeping bags and blankets. These are distributed to the refugees very regularly. There is a constant need as the police here keep taking the bedding off people and spraying it (and the people using it) with CS gas, despite the fact that this is illegal. Impossible to get out of the blankets. The refugees are forced to discard them. For the authorities to pick the blankets up they have to have teams wearing specialist protective equipment. That's what CS gas does to a blanket, never mind a human being...... So blankets and sleeping bags were a VERY good thing to be collected in Hull.
Socks are essential. The refugees have trench foot and secondary infections of the feet. These can be fatal. Their feet are wet. All. The. Time. So they go through socks very quickly.
I would definitely encourage anyone who has thought they might one day go to Calais to volunteer, to go for it. The warehouse and kitchen are incredibly friendly places and the work is just like the sorting we do in Hull on a Wednesday night. But on quite a bit of a larger scale of course! There is no minimum time commitment.