I went to Calais last weekend to volunteer with Care4Calais, an absolutely amazing charity providing emergency aid to refugees in Northern France.
I still don't quite know how to describe my experience. On the one hand it was incredibly difficult to see the reality our fellow humans are having to face, living in tents that the police come and slash every few weeks, with nothing but the clothes on their back, their phone, and perhaps a sleeping bag. And on the other hand, it was incredibly powerful to see the strength and resilience of people, who even in these extreme conditions, could crack so many jokes, be so friendly and so generous.
In the mornings, the Care4Calais team of volunteers would do preparations in the warehouse: we'd sort donations, and prepare teas, coffees, and the items for distribution that day. In the afternoons we would go to various distribution sites around Calais and give out the items (tents, sleeping bags, food packs, new joggers etc.) and deliver services (hair cutting equipment, teas, coffees, phone charging stations and games - football, connect4, dominoes etc.).
left: packing 100 food packs in the warehouse, including beans, fish, milk, sugar, rice, oats and more.
middle: a camp in Dunkirk, where there are men, women and children living on a disused railway track.
right: one of main mountains of donations in the warehouse.
I had so many beautiful interactions with people that will stay in my heart forever, including this one guy from Sudan, around my age, a computer programmer who's been stuck in Calais for 3 months, showing me the absolutely stunning photographs he takes on his phone of birds flying in the sky; he said to me he loves birds, he's so jealous of their freedom, and loves to capture them flying.
I felt such a strong sense of purpose working in a team to help make that night a little bit better for our refugee friends. Care4Calais are doing such brilliant work that I've decided to support them through every sale on my Etsy shop: