Each year we volunteer with students in Calais where many migrants are living in poor circumstances. We work with different grassroots organisations. Any support is welcome and a relief for the volunteers that are long-term based in Calais! It is also a great opportunity for you to understand the complexity of migration in Europe better. Students generally consider this an important experience and actually enjoy the hands-on activities they contribute to. The vibe among the volunteers is amazing.
We are aware that many universities and student groups would be interested to do the same. It is fairly easy to organize the trip. I hope this email concept helps others to volunteer as well. You only need to make your own Google document for your group to communicate with the organizations. If you have any questions do not hesitate to reach out!
Situation in Calais
In Northern France, displaced people face wet and cold and windy weather conditions, regular police evictions, and a lack of appropriate shelter and support, among a multitude of other challenges. Calais is only 3 hours from the Dutch border, migrants live outside in these inhumane circumstances. Before, there was a big makeshift camp in Calais, also called the “Jungle”. However, the French government frequently evicts makeshift camps without providing adequate alternative solutions. Therefore there is a constant need for support. Due to the inaction of the state and the wider international community, over the years, basic human necessities have been provided by smaller independent grassroots organizations in Calais to support the stranded migrants. Tents, sleeping bags and warm clothing is distributed and each day warm meals are provided and basic toiletries. The migrants are a mix of war refugees, climate refugees and other migrants. They desperately want to cross the canal in the back of a truck or on a boat and reach the UK.
Principally, aid organisations operate from two main warehouses, stocked mainly from donations, with supplies of food, clothing, sleeping bags, bars of soaps and tampons. They organise distributions of these items, as well as hot meals and generators for people to charge mobile phones. We have selected these two rather large grassroots organizations that welcome larger groups. It would be ideal to divide the group over these two organizations so that it is easier for the organizations to handle. In both organizations, you have the opportunity to interact with the migrants during distributions. More information about these organizations is provided at the end of this email and in the attachment. Note that volunteering is not without obligation. If you subscribe they count on you.
Care 4 Calais: They sort and distribute donated goods and food from a warehouse in Calais. Different services are provided to the refugees. Most of the volunteers come from the UK or Belgium.
First Aid Support Team: FAST is a volunteer group of healthcare professionals from the UK and the Netherlands who come to Calais and provide first aid support. They provide refugees with a crucial first point of call regarding health issues, identifying when people need emergency healthcare but also giving wound care advice and bandaging, over the counter medication and general first aid care. The team will often accompany Care4Calais on distributions and are invaluable in helping with the many problems arising from the low living standards to which the refugees are exposed. If you have first aid experience or a medical background you can be of valuable assistance with them.
Refugee Community Kitchen: They prepare 2500 meals per day and distribute them amongst the migrants. There is a great vibe in the kitchen with nice music. In their warehouse, they also chop up wood in the woodyard to provide approximately 10kg packages of wood every day. They collaborate with a big warehouse called Collectiveaid from where goods are distributed.
L'Auberge des Migrants: Since 2008, L’Auberge Des Migrants has been working with refugees and displaced people in Calais and Northern France, providing food and material assistance, support and advocacy. Their objective is to provide emergency material aid, but also to fight to promote the dignity of people in exile, through their actions. This organisation provides wood packages for fires in the woodyard project, and sorts donations for the migrants. They distribute primarily NFI (non-food items) which includes essential clothing, bedding, and hygiene items. This is a big warehouse, located in the same warehouse as the Refugee Community Kitchen. L'Auberge is connected to Utopia56 and Collectiveaid. Most of the volunteers are French and English speaking.
Practical information and registration:
There are some standard details that both warehouses need from you.
- Please register your details in "this spreadsheet".
- ID: upload a copy of your passport or ID in "this folder".
- Insurance: The university is ensured for incidents abroad during internships or study trips. You can subscribe "here" for the insurance.
- Transport: It is about 3.5 hours driving from Eindhoven. It is best to share rides. If you have a car please write down how many spots you have available.
- Accommodation: There is a large youth hostel that offers reduced prices for volunteers (19,00 euro per night, see website). We can make that reservation for you if you leave your details. There are also many Airbnbs in the area that is even cheaper if you share them with a group.
- Dinner: We often have dinner with the whole group of students and lecturers (and sometimes volunteers) in the centre of Calais.
- Additional stop: On your way back you might want to stop over in Brugge or Gent for a night out in one of these lively student cities.
Donations are always welcome. Both main organizations have lists available of the most urgent needs. Ask others in your direct environment to donate as well! We have poster formats available. You can update them and print them to collect goods. Goods can be donated at our "university deposit". We collect everything at the reception in Tilburg and before we leave we fill all the gaps in the cars with donations.