Posted: 03 November 2016

Helping out at the migrant camp in Calais

Four of our staff visited the ‘Jungle’ migrant camp in Calais in a personal capacity just a week before its demolition by the French authorities. 

Helen Joyce and Betty Chivasa from our SMART refugee and migrant service in Newcastle, Beth Carter, a supporter care officer based in London, and Christine Bonney, a young refugee and migrants practitioner, with our London-based Stand by Me service had all decided to volunteer in France to support migrants. 

A history of helping

The Children’s Society has been helping refugees and migrants in the UK, for over 70 years and recently took part in the Refugees Welcome demonstration in September this year.

We work with migrant children separated from their families as well as those migrant children still living with their families, to help them deal with their legal claims for asylum, as well as supporting them emotionally and practically through our services.

In the camp

Beth went to the migrant camp in Calais after her local MP, Stella Creasy drew her attention to volunteering possibilities in the camps.

‘We were there just before the evictions during a very uncertain time for both refugees and volunteers. We were helping pack backpacks to be distributed for the upcoming evictions – although we didn’t know then how soon they would be,’ she said.

‘It was amazing to go over there and find so many like-minded people who are frustrated with our country’s and the Government’s response to the crisis, giving up a day, a few days, weeks and months in order to show their support to people who have been forced to flee their homes.’

While at the camp in October, Helen and Betty helped to sort out donations including bedding and sleeping bags, toiletries and clothing, ensuring they were of an acceptable standard for people in the camps to use.

Helen said of her experience: ‘The weekend went well and it felt good to be part of something that was actually helping these people. However, it was also unbelievably sad to think this is happening only 30 minutes from London, and I’ve found the UK Government’s response very disappointing.

‘It was also shocking that these people were not being better provided for and there were some really vulnerable children there who were being failed.’

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By Rob Devey - Guest bloggers

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