Nope – not a jungle in South America, but the so called ‘jungle’ refugee camp in Calais (although incognito Insect Repellent was still a much needed and appreciated item!) I returned two weeks ago from a month volunteering with the brilliant organisation Help Refugees, directly distributing aid to residents of the camp.
My time in Calais restored my faith in humanity, whilst simultaneously destroying it. How could these people be so kind and helpful, despite the horror and tragedy of their journey? How could the refugees be so positive in the face of such utter rejection from the French and British governments? How could we be letting these vulnerable people, who need our help, live in absolute squalor, many freezing cold at night? How can it be that my friends (under 18s with no family in the camp) have not been reunited with their family in the UK – despite the legal right to reunification? These are questions that are still with me, and as British citizens we all share a responsibility in answering them.
There is hardly any NGO involvement in Calais, and the vast majority of the work is done by ordinary volunteers, people like you and me, with no prior experience. Despite this, the Help Refugees grassroots systems in place function really well; regular meetings are held with community leaders, connections are utilised to bring in aid, and above all we try to treat residents of the camp with the dignity human beings deserve. Although there is one major problem – constant donation and volunteer shortages.
So I hear you asking, what can I do to help? incognito Insect Repellent have been amazingly kind and directly donated to Help Refugees, which you can also do here (as well as read more about the organisation). Or why not organise a collection of most needed items in your neighbourhood? Advice on lobbying British politicians to take in our fair share of refugees can be found here. Finally volunteering is a way to directly help, meet the most inspiring people, both refugees and volunteers, and was also so enjoyable and not scary at all (unlike what I was expecting prior to going!).
Feel free to get in touch with any questions/offers of help you may have: email@example.com