In March I joined a group of 30 volunteers from the Cambridge Convoy Refugee Action Group (CamCRAG) who aim to coordinate the sending of donation and volunteers to help displaced people in Calais. After making the journey from Cambridge to Calais, we helped with a range of jobs in a warehouse (L’Auberge des Migrants) that is shared by multiple organisations and charities supporting displaced people in the area.
Don’t get me wrong, working in the warehouse is no glamourous task, but we were ready to have a go at anything they needed us to do. Some of the weekend activities included: Making hygiene kits, cleaning and sizing shoes, cleaning IBCs (intermediate bulk containers), making hot meals, sizing shorts and trousers, counting tops, checking tents, bagging up spices, taking toothpastes out of packing and so much more! Not to mention we also had to save some baby kittens that were hiding amongst donations!
Aside from the hard work, the trip also included a lot of reflection for me. It made me think about how easy it was for me to travel between the UK and Calais, just because of the passport I own and the luck of where I have been born.
I heard from long term volunteers who regularly do distributions just how awful the situation is for those staying in Calais. I found it really insightful to see how things run in Calais, which is almost the other side to our work at PARCA. Many of the asylum seekers and refugees we support at PARCA have passed through Calais on their journey to get to the UK, so I was able to better understand what they have been through before reaching Peterborough.
I did not go to Calais to make myself feel better about the heart-breaking situation, but to make a small, real difference for the organisations and the people they support. I had an amazing weekend full of hard work, laughter and most importantly solidarity.