A group from Newham and Redbridge were in Calais on December 9th-10th working from the Care4Calais warehouse.
Thanks first to the many who contributed to the trip from our area. We were able to take over a donation of 1000 euros and all the vehicles were packed high with donations of clothing and other material for the Care4Calais winter appeal. Many donations came from individuals, some of which were very generous. Special thanks too to those who collected among their friends and networks and bought and sold the Paddington Bear T shirts, especially the Society of the Sacred Heart and Tower Hamlets GP network. We are well on our way to another thousand euros for the next visit. Others did collections or sold shirts at work, including at Connaught School, London Transport and Horniman museums, Imperial College and in the Tower Hamlets Drug Intervention team.
The weekend was a major operation. We had over 120 volunteers working from the warehouse, with large groups from Newham, Redbridge, Waltham Forest, Islington, Haringey and South London as well as a coachload of students organised by Stand Up to Racism and people from as far away as Wigan, Manchester and Wakefield. On Saturday large distributions of individual food and clothing packs were made at four different sites in Calais. There was also a distribution in Dunkirk and another team did a big clean up of the site there. A group visited the centre for unaccompanied minors in St Omer, where there are currently around 50 child refugees, taking clothing and footwear as well as games and art materials. Thousands of pounds were donated from collections like ours all over the country. On Saturday night, some of the refugees from Afghanistan, Eritrea and Sudan (including a thirteen year old boy) spoke at a meeting with the volunteers, where we saw the excellent new documentary, Calais Children – a Case to Answer.
Sunday morning in Calais saw heavy snow, high winds and an icy sleet that went on all day. Conditions for the hundreds sleeping out in the woods and on waste ground were just appalling. Distributions took place again at four sites, this time of winter coats, boots and bivvy bags. We were frozen to the bone by the end of the day, yet we were going home to warmth and security. For the refugees, a whole winter in these conditions awaits.