In the month and a half since I posted my last update things have changed radically in Calais, and this has dominated our work.
The eviction of refugees from the Jungle was announced and has now taken place, although many of the children are still there, waiting for the authorities to safeguard them. The situation is not stable. Although many of the adult refugees have been taken to centres around France, many others are street homeless. The volunteer agencies on the ground are having to develop their response on a daily basis, dealing first and foremost with the children still in the camp, who are receiving no official care services. If you want up to date information on events in the Jungle, please see the breaking news page on Calaidipedia.
In Somerset, we continue to collect the full range of aid. We will resume deliveries to the warehouses in Calais as soon as they are in a position to receive them, and in the meantime are still sending aid to the Middle East and Southern Europe. The only item we have stopped collecting is suitcases: many thanks for all you donated over the last few weeks!
In October we held two very successful fundraising events. Firstly the Mega Sale, which Ruth Wajsblum co-ordinated, raised £562.40 (plus 3 euros & a trolley token). Many thanks to all those who helped, bought, and donated, and especially to Sun Street Chapel for letting us use your lovely venue.
Later in October Linden Corbin organised ‘Raising the Roof!’, a benefit at the Silk Mill. This raised an amazing £1,351.78, through ticket sales, donations, and a raffle. Many thanks to all those who were involved, especially the Backwood Redeemers, the Inbredz, DJ Mrs P, Klumpox Visuals, the Silk Mill, and all those who donated prizes for the raffle.
Thanks to these two events and a massive number of aid donations – particularly of desperately needed suitcases – we have been able to mount an excellent response to the urgent request for help from Calais. As well as buying bottled water for those on the move, and contributing to the fuel costs of some journeys to France and moving refugees to safe houses, we have donated £500 for refugees phone credit and £500 to the Help Refugees vulnerabilities team. We are still standing by to help with urgent needs as they arise, and if you can help with this, please donate on our fundraising site here.
Meanwhile it has been an incredible time in terms of donations. Many thanks to all the individuals who have contributed, and also to St Mary Redcliffe School for a whole van full of excellent aid, and to All Hallows Preparatory School for a wonderful donation of food from their harvest festival. Thanks also to all the volunteers who came in for extra sorting and packing sessions. We sent five very large loads of aid out to Calais in a very short time, which is no mean feat!
A brief update on our caravan Raising Hope. We had great fun loading up at Your Storage Space, and particularly welcomed the donation of money for a large box of food from three local girls. Kitt and Thea Whisstock and Matilda Dembo had sold lemonade and biscuits to raise funds for charitable causes, and donated half to RAISE, which was fantastic. Rob & Linden Corbin got Raising Hope to Calais just as the threat of the evictions was heard. Thankfully, a decision was made not to tow more caravans into the Jungle at that point. Had Hope got there a week earlier she would probably not have lasted long. Instead Hope is now housing a long term volunteer at the L’Auberge warehouse in Calais: which is a great outcome!
We have also continued to support the (very few) refugees resettled in our area, both by helping to furnish and equip homes, and by putting potential volunteers in touch with the lead agencies for specific tasks. At the moment we have outstanding requests for bicycles for teenage boys, a television, video & dvd player, and an electric wheelchair or buggy, so if you can help with any of those please email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Coming soon: we will be launching Somerset Smiles, a initiative to send gift bags to children displaced by conflict in Syria; and a public meeting about helping refugees in Frome with other local organisations. Please email to be added to our mailing list: email@example.com.