Refugee Week was in June, and we held our Big Share again at the Avenues Centre. 100 or so people came to eat and talk and learn about what we do. We also raised £350 at a wonderfully sunny day at Engage for Change, which was donated to Care4Calais. There are around 3000 refugees living there in destitution, mostly because of delays and problems with the asylum process. Many are sleeping rough - finding space wherever they can under bridges and on the streets.
A group of volunteers went to Download Festival in June to collect discarded sleeping bags and mats. Thereafter many more volunteers each took a sleeping bag or two - or seventy! - to wash and dry before bringing them back to us to be distributed where needed. Most will be going to Calais but some will be kept for local homeless people. Volunteers will likely be going to another festival in August, please contact us if you would like to join them.
£190 was raised in sponsorship for Leonne to wear a dress to Sangyal's black tie event in July. Sangyal was boxing at a charity event to raise money for cancer research. The sponsorship money plus £150 raised at Cottingham Day will be donated to Care4Calais or used for expenses to take the collected sleeping bags to Calais in July and August. If you are interested in going to Calais, please contact us via the facebook page. We also welcome donations of food!
We also donated £500 to Anne Bates in Greece. Anne says of her work there, “The need is great here. The UNCHR are evicting families from apartments in Athens. They say that if they have been in here 2 years they should be able to maintain themselves! How can they? There is no work here for the Greeks! They have no papers! Small groups of us are 'begging' all over the world for bits of money to pay for roofs over their heads, nappies for families on streets, food and baby milk.
One of the mums at the Women's only space where I volunteer 3x a week has just come out of prison, something to do with papers, they have taken her cash card for 3months as part of punishment....she has children to feed.. wicked world we live in...”
Stalls at Cottingham Market and Walton Street Carboot continued to raise funds throughout June and July, and donations of clothes and household items were also taken to Open Doors for refugees and asylum seekers living in Hull. We also had a stall at Pride this year, selling more Paddington t-shirts - now available in different colours and more sizes, for £10 each.
Though it is rarely reported, there were more evictions in Calais in July, with refugees having their possessions confiscated and destroyed. Arafa, Cath and Jay went there on the 17th, with a car full of sleeping bags and some food. They report: "Around half of the sleeping bags collected at Download and washed by #teamhull were taken to Calais this weekend and were gratefully received. The warm, fairly dry weather is allowing a stockpile to be built in the hope that there will be enough to last through the winter.
We were lucky enough to be able to volunteer for a day with Care4Calais while we were there. After sorting the sleeping bags that we'd delivered, we all set off on a two hour drive to a park in Brussels, inhabited by around two hundred displaced people living in tents, in and around the park. As well as food, a generator was taken for charging phones, also powering the hair clippers provided for the afternoon. The phones, so vital for people, miles away from their families, often all displaced but not always together. The hair clippers and scissors were well used the whole time, so important in maintaining a sense of self and personal dignity. Manning the hair and phone charging section, we had the opportunity to chat to a few people as they waited in turn. The atmosphere was calm, a real mix of people from different countries and cultures, all with different stories to tell.
Despite their situations, what they'd been through, their living conditions, the people I spoke to had retained a certain tenacity. As one Eritrean man said, "there are a lot of strong people here, you have to be to get this far".