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Calais People to People

Posted 11th September 2015 by Josh Schouten

Dear Momentum Team,

apologies for the long post but please do read it.

CS_LOGO_roundel_blackSome of you are aware that the refugee crisis has been on my agenda for some time with engagement in Berlin where hundreds of refugees are arriving on a daily basis. I don’t need to tell you about the humanitarian crisis less then 30 miles from the British shore – you’ve seen the images of Syrian, Eritreans, Afghans, Sudanese (…the list continues) who escaped war torn countries, crossed deserts and mountains, survived Mediterranean & pan European crossings and finally made it to the English Channel. Having been a refugee myself (although not even comparable to what is happening in those countries) the current crisis has kept me up many nights thinking about what is going on – particularly shocking is the lack of empathy & humanitarian support. The U.N. has described the situation in Calais (and as a whole) a “Civil Emergency” and called for a “comprehensive package and…. a sustainable response.” Sadly, despite this being the biggest refugee crisis the world has seen, this is not forthcoming. What’s shocking and a sad reality is the recent press coverage which is often filled with a barrage of inappropriate and racist language completely ignoring fact, figures and any humanity. But that’s an issue for itself and something that will take much more time to tackle.

Whilst we can’t ignore what’s happening around Europe and the above affected countries, I wanted to focus on what’s closer to home and more accessible.There are currently about 4,000 people living in squalid conditions in Calais, mostly men –  but as the situation in the conflict countries gets worse more and more women & young children, babies amongst them undertake the dangerous and often deadly journey and many arrive daily desperately hungry and in need of urgent medical attention. There is no electricity and only a couple taps of running water. Essentials that we take for granted, like women’s sanitary products, clean underwear, toilet paper and toothbrushes are in extremely short supply. The only protections from the elements are tents and improvised make shift shelters which have been built by the refugees – I can only imagine what the area looked like after today’s downpour. To make matters worse, winter is just around the corner and I’m concerned about the lack of shoes, warm clothing, sleeping bags and the fact that the majority of people are still sleeping on the cold wet floor. I’ve been in touch with the L’Auberge Des Migrants & Salam Calais, the agencies on the ground handling the situation and they report that pretty much all basics including food are desperately low (they only manage to feed about 2000 people daily) and many of the refugees are malnourished as they don’t even get a meal a day in.

With the oncoming of the rainy season & winter as well as a constant stream of new arrivals, the situation is only going to get worse!

I will be renting a truck and going to Calais mid-October and the idea is to raise as much money as possible to buy but also to collect as many useful items for the people there as possible. I will be spending a few days in the jungle distributing the goods and trying to help where I can, i.e. building beds, making storage facilities, cleaning up, making tea/ coffee for people, playing with the kids, etc….

So, after a long introduction this brings me to the help I am asking of you and anyone else you know. There are various things everybody can do.

1. Donate goods

Honestly, everything imaginable is needed there, the situation is really bad. Think the following for thought starters:

– warm clothing for the winter, shoes & socks (practical please no heels), sleeping bags, sleeping mats/ yoga mats to lay on (no mattresses), blankets, tents, toiletry bags

– old bags, luggage to store things in (most people arrive with their entire belongings in a small rucksack if even), storage boxes for mice to not gain access to food

– cooking pots

– old mobile phone & sim cards

If you have any items that you would like to donate you may bring them to Momentum training and they will be passed onto me.

2. Donate money HERE

I have started a fundraiser here for those who want to make a financial contribution, I have set the goal at hopefully something achievable but please don’t hold back to exceed it – the more gets gathered, the more can be helped that weekend.

I will be using the money to purchase other items in bulk & topping up on the above if we don’t manage to collect them. 

– hygiene products (toothpaste, toothbrushes, soap, wet wipes, sanitary pads, razors, shaving foam)

– sustenance (tinned food, tea/coffee, sugar, flour, garlic, ginger, pasta, cooking oil, quick boiling rice)

– dry wood/ palettes – to be used for cooking & heating, they are taking down the trees but they’re too wet to burn so no option to cook food

– candles, torches (led), batteries

3. Spread the word

Please talk about, share, discuss/ debate the issue, raise awareness and show empathy to what is going on and get this fundraiser going beyond the Tea Building! Also please ask any of your mates who work for other agencies/ companies to see if they can donate any goods. My friend has designed some logos for the support group we joined on Facebook, so if you want to spread the word under this umbrella and use them for your FB profiles etc please do – the image is in this post.

4. Help volunteer 

Come have a chat with me if you’re interested (Send Mail) in helping – there will be loads to organise & coordinate. I’ll need help buying all this stuff at some point, loading the van (or hopefully even truck)… Also if anyone has any ideas on storage that would be great. Any empty garages etc will come in really handy.

Happy to sit down with anyone who is interested in more information or just wants to have a chat/ exchange ideas, get contacts in Calais etc. Please do, I’d be really happy to see this snowball into a big positive response. It’s a crisis of immense proportions, those 4,000 in Calais are just a tiny amount of those displaced in urgent need of basic help but we need to start somewhere, why not close to home.

Thanks for reading