[BAI NOTE: The following information and analysis was pulled from a refugee support page on Facebook. The information below was written by an anonymous volunteer and although many important points are made – does not necessarily reflect the opinions of Bay Area Intifada contributors. ]
This report was written on Sunday September 13th and could be outdated at any given moment. Everything evolves so quickly here that by next week the situation might be completely different.
In spite of all the good intentions of so many, I would like to give a few last minute pointers. I’ve been here for a week now to volunteer and I’m helping out where help is needed. (I am here as an individual, unconnected to any organization so it is easier to write unprejudiced. On the other hand, this is merely a personal impression, although formed after having lots of conversations with the organizations here and people on the field.)
If you have goods available, try to stock these at your own place or at friends for now. Currently all storage here is full and organizations are looking for more space but it is unlikely that they are going to find more space this week and probably not even in the first few weeks. To be sure of storage place, contact Salam, L’Auberge des Migrants or Secours Catholique (these are the organizations that usually have space. If they say they don’t have any space left, they don’t, so there is no point in coming with stuff anyways)
If, in your opinion, it is wise to come and distribute things yourselves, these are a few pointers:
Don’t come in the weekend. In the weekend, the camp is crowded with people that bring stuff and even dozens of tourists, journalists, disaster tourists …
The refugee camp is overwhelmed with people that hinder the aid workers and organizations. There are only two access roads to the camp (big enough for cars, there are others that can be taken by foot) and today and yesterday, half of the time those roads were closed by cars of people who wanted their picture taken with a fugitive or just want to come take a look. If you are not here to offer help, then please stay away.
Organise yourself. Don’t come here with cars full of stuff that is not sorted out yet. First of all, there is no use in throwing people garbage bags stuffed with clothes if what they need is tents and vice versa. If you decide to come, take a car with for example nothing but tents and sleeping bags, come with enough help and work out a system to make sure your distribution will be calm and orderly. You take away the dignity of the refugees if you let them behave like animals. Nobody is served by that. Neither will you, by the way, when your car will be plundered.
When you come, start by taking a day or half a day to look around before you start distributing. Talk to people that know the terrain and ask them what the best system is. Those people have experience and know how. Follow their directions. Don’t be so arrogant to know better, because you don’t.
Don’t open your car if there are already dozens of people pushing and pulling each other around your car. Go to a place where there is no one and when curious people come, tell them what you have and ask them, strictly, to form a line. It is advised to be at least with 5 people for this.
The things people want most at this moment are: Construction materials, tents, sleeping bags, blankets, warm jackets, shoes, …
Don’t bring these items if you don’t have storage or if you can’t distribute them in an orderly manner. It is dangerous, denigrating, useless and a loss of time and energy.
Don’t bring women’s and children’s clothing! The camp is not a recycling center. Women and children have everything they need to survive here. You can’t help with stuff for them, all you do is take space that is urgently needed for more useful things.
When your distribution goes out of control and you don’t succeed to get your things to where it is needed, please have the respect to take your leftovers home. Don’t leave them by the side of the road. There is enough pollution and garbage as it is.
As said, the camp is not a recycling center, there are reuse centers in every country that could make better use of these things.
When you have any questions about distributing goods, please contact the organizations mentioned above and ask them how and what. If they don’t respond immediately, bear in mind that they are extremely busy right now.
If you want to help, there is enough around here to do. (building, distributing, garbage collecting, taxi driving, teaching, ….) For the moment there are about 20 (weekdays) to 60 (weekends) volunteers a day in the camp. Most of them spend the night in a tent camp on the side of the jungle.
Bear in mind: it is a refugee camp, so safety can not be guaranteed. Police does not come in and they don’t interfere when something happens. Spending the night (and helping) is at your own risk!
There has been build a “volunteer camp” around the people of No Border. Contact them and ask if there is room. If not, there are cheap beds to be found in the neighborhood (hostels, camping sites, etc,…)
Don’t try to sleep in the camp itself, the nights can be pretty noisy (this is a refugee camp, not a vacation resort).
You live among different communities that have issues with each other worldwide, let along on this very small area without significant utilities.
Around the camp of the No Border people, there are a few individuals that sleep there. Go see them and talk to them first, ask about the atmosphere and if it is safe to sleep there. Until now everything is fine because of the good weather and the abundance of material, but this could change at any given moment!
If you want to come and volunteer, come for a minimum of one week. It was only after a few days that I became useful, by talking a lot first and getting to know the area. Meet the right people and try to connect to their plans (distribution, building, garbage collecting,…). Take along a car or a bike, so you can move around easily. Bring a solid bike lock for the bike, because bikes are very sought-after in the camp.
Cars usually park in a street near the camp and for now there have not been any reports of vandalism or theft. It is not guaranteed this will not happen in the future. Please do not put any signs in your car that show you help refugees in Calais, because there have been reports of vandalism by rightwing groups.
Are you someone that is more at easy by simply working for organizations please contact Salam, L’Auberge des Migrants or Secours Catholique.
L’Auberge Des Migrants does distribution of food on Tuesdays and Saturdays. They meet in the morning to make the packages and they ride to the camp together to distribute them. This is hard work and volunteers are asked to follow through on directions that are given so everything goes smoothly.
Secours Catholique regularly does distribution of clothing, and is always looking for people to help them sort things out and to help on distribution days. These distributions are not daily nor weekly so contact them beforehand to know if help is needed.
If you are more of an adventures type and are you here as an individual or a group? Try contacting Liz or Toby. Those two people help refugees through direct aid and distribution of goods. Those two have been here the longest and therefor are THE two people on the terrain that can use your help the most. They are not supported by any organization but work as individuals. They speak English. They can always use people that mean well and are open to suggestions.
3. Structural help
Do you want to build something structural as an organization or a group, please, again, first take the time to come for a weekend to feel the needs and have a close look at the requirements here.
Take along pen and paper and tour, talk to people, ask what they need. People here know what current needs are and in which could be invested. It is important to everybody that there is agreed on what is necessary.
I myself are leaving to the south for a few months to go work there, but I plan to come back as soon as possible ant to stay here for a few months.
People that have questions about what they can do can always contact me and we can see what could be expected of you and what are the possibilities.
I can also put you in contact with the right people here. Please make sure you have at least one week free for this so you can be of some use. I am here as an individual, not as an organization so I can not organise volunteer camps and things like that wink emoticon
4. Money donations
If you want to donate money, go through the organizations mentioned above or for example through Liz. She stays here as long as there is gas in the tank of her truck and she does an amazing job. Toby also has a few projects in England where they call for donations for direct aid. These people live among the refugees and often are the first stop for refugees who – unfortunately – still arrive on a daily basis to provide them with basic materials (tents, sleeping bags, clothing, …) They don’t have any storage place.
Everything put together I must say it is an honor for me to work here between such beautiful people. I have had a lot of positive and a few negative experiences, but with my background as a social worker, it is a very satisfactory feeling to be able to be a part of this project. If you are open minded and have a big hart, I think you can do beautiful things here.
If you have questions, please pose them. Keep in mind that for the moment I don’t have much access to the internet, so it might take a while until you get your answer.
I hope this post does not scare you to continue to work for a group of people that are literally in the cold right now because of absurd bureaucracy in Europese agreements. Your help is greatly appreciated. If this post came across as too arrogant, please consider I wrote this with the needs of the refugees in mind and not because of some sort of presumptuous attitude.
Lots of success to everyone,