Monthly Archives: December 2016

December round-up

The past month has continued to be extremely busy, despite the many other demands on people’s time during the festive season. Donations have continued to flow into Your Storage Space on Mondays and our monthly Saturday morning donation drop. Luckily levels of volunteers have also been great – sometimes astonishing! We moved our sorting times to the earlier 13.30 – 15.30 as we sort by natural light, and on a dull winter’s day this has been a real challenge. One of our volunteers has lent us some disco lights, which, when fixed on a static white light mode, do help (at least in a small area).

The warehouses in Calais are both still fully operational, supporting the camp in Dunkirk, sending aid on to Greece and Lebanon, and increasingly supporting the growing number of refugees who are street homeless in Paris. We are still sending aid both to the Calais warehouses and to RAFT (Refugee Aid from Taunton) who pass it on to charities delivering to the Middle East, Europe, and Africa. We have had several loads go out this month.

We have launched several Winter appeals: for Hygiene packs, Cold and flu packs, and Winter warmth packs for refugees on the streets of Paris, where conditions are dire.

This runs hand in hand with a massive challenge: we’re trying to raise £1,500 to spend on emergency aid over the winter. If you can help, our crowdfunding page is here: https://mydonate.bt.com/events/wintersurvival. We have already had donations of winter fuel allowances, Christmas card and Christmas present funds, and just plain simple donations, all of which are much appreciated!

As well as sorting and packing, our volunteers and friends have been busy fundraising too. Ruth ran a stall at the Wonky Winterwonderland in the Silk Mill raising £123. Jules ran a Second Chance clothing sale, raising £200 for RAISE and similar sum which has gone directly to buy hot water bottles for refugees in Greece. Bruton Wholefoods continues to support us by keeping a donations tin ever-present by the till, currently supported by a basket of deliciously hot fresh chillies grown on the Emily Estate at Hadspen, each available for a donation to RAISE. The Frome Community Choir serenaded the women of Trinity Church, who in turn donated the amazing sum of £121.46 to RAISE: many thanks to both groups. We have also received a generous cheque for £200 from the Frome Circle Dance band. All these sums will be going towards our winter appeal.

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We continue to be open to working in partnership with other groups with similar aims, in order to maximise the effects of our work. One partnership which is new this month is that with Hope and Aid Direct, a UK based charity who regularly drive convoys of aid out to people in need. Their next convoy will take aid to Thessaloniki and Lesvos in Greece in January. Although most of their five trucks are already full, we have managed to reserve a corner in one truck, and have put out an appeal for 100 filled handbags. The bags will be distributed to the women in the refugee camps to restore some dignity and normality, as well as providing some womanly comforts. The idea of filling and distributing handbags is something of a trademark for Hope and Aid Direct, and it has certainly appealed to our supporters. Our appeal closes on 7th January and the response to it has already been amazing: probably the closest we’ve been to going viral, with offers of bags coming from all over the country. It’s something we’ll definitely look at repeating and developing on if we can for Hope and Aid Direct’s next trip. Many thanks too to our two special town centre drop off points for handbags: Inspiration in Frome and Swan Vintage in Bruton.

Another partnership that’s been growing for a while is that with Calais Action South West. This month we have effectively amalgamated the two groups, welcoming them and their resources to the RAISE banner. This has allowed us to introduce an additional satellite donation drop point at Storagebase on the outskirts of Frome, which – with it’s extended opening hours – will be a boon. You can read more about that in this blog post.

Another of our aims is to raise awareness of the plight of refugees, and what people can do to help. At the end of November we held a public meeting with the Frome Syrian Refugee Support Group, with speakers also from Bath University, Somerset County Council and the Mendip YMCA. This caught the attention of Frome FM and the Frome Times, both of whom gave much appreciated publicity to the event.

Three of our volunteers, Rob, Laura and Tony, also visited Frome Community College to talk with students there about their experiences of volunteering with RAISE and in Calais.

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The Frome Times also published the story of our Somerset Smiles bags, developed in response to an idea from the leader of the Paulton 2nd Brownies. This appeal, which we’re running with RAFT – Refugee Aid from Taunton – will see many hundreds of gift bags distributed to Syrian refugee children in the New Year, and has been massively successful.

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Last but not least, in my (almost) monthly round up: I couldn’t resist including this picture of three of the lovely women who have been gathering in the Cheese and Grain to explore the fine arts of knitting and crochet. As well as working on squares for blankets, they are also raising awareness of what we do (and having a lot of fun)! Knitters and crocheters are welcome to donate 12″ squares towards blankets, and for those with more advanced skills, hats, scarves, and gloves are always welcome too.

Wishing all our supporters a very happy festive season,
and a peaceful 2017.

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Festive Season opening hours 2016/17

Monday 19th December: last donation drop of 2016 at Your Storage Space, Frome.

Wednesday 21st December: Mill on the Brue, Bruton closed till Tuesday 2nd January

Saturday 24th December:
Inspiration, Frome closes for handbag donations at 15.00
Storagebase, Frome closes at 16.00
Swan Vintage, Bruton closes for handbag donations at 16.00

We wish you all a Merry Christmas!

Tuesday 27th December: Storagebase, Frome opens 10.00 – 16.00, and with slightly reduced opening hours for the next few days: information here.

Thursday 29th, Friday 30th, Saturday 31st: Swan Vintage, Bruton normal opening hours for handbag donations: information here.

Happy New Year!

Sunday 1st January: all our donation drops will be closed and having a well-earned rest!

Monday 2nd January: Storagebase, Frome re-opens

Tuesday 3rd January:
– Mill on the Brue, Bruton re-opens
Swan Vintage, Bruton re-opens for handbag donations

Thursday 5th January: Inspiration, Frome reopens for handbag donations

Monday 9th January: 13.30 – 15.30 donation drop in Your Storage Space, Frome

 

 

 

 

Storagebase becomes additional RAISE donation drop point

Following the death of three year old Aylan Kurdi in 2015 many people became more aware of the refugee crisis and started taking action to help. In particular many small groups developed in the UK collecting aid and taking it to Calais.

The network of grassroots groups is gradually becoming less fragmented. We had become aware that there was a second local group, primarily from Midsomer Norton and Radstock, operating as ‘Calais Action South West’ from Storagebase Self Store on the outskirts of Frome.

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Dean & Laura from Calais Action South West & Christine & Pippa from RAISE

Over the past few months we have started to work together as we both had the same aims, and it seemed silly not to. RAISE has more local volunteers, and so a number of us have already been out to Storagebase to help the Calais Action South West team sort, pack and load their donations. We have also transported some of the aid they collected.

Calais Action South West have recently decided to stop operating independently of RAISE, and to join forces with us. They bring with them lovely donors and volunteers, and an additional donation drop point in Storagebase, all of which we warmly welcome.

One brilliant thing is that Storagebase are happy for aid donations to be dropped off during their opening hours, without a volunteer being there to receive them (like with our satellite donation drop at Mill on the Brue in Bruton). This means we can improve our service to donors, offering 7 day drop offs.

As the unit we have in Storagebase is smaller, we can’t do the detailed sorting that we achieve in Your Storage Space, where we now have getting on for 100 categories to sort to. We therefore aim to quality check and do basic sorting of donations in Storagebase, and then move donations across for fine sorting.

We may run other specific services and projects from Storagebase too, as things develop.

We will continue to receive donations every Monday afternoon and the third Saturday morning of every month in Your Storage Space, and would encourage people to bring larger donations direct to this, our main sorting space.

We are incredibly grateful to both Your Storage SpaceStoragebase and Mill on the Brue, for continuing to support the vital humanitarian work that we do in RAISE.

Storagebase Self Storage can be found at 1 Cornbrash, Commerce Park, Frome BA11 2FD.

100 handbags

We have been given the opportunity to send some aid to refugees in Thessaloniki and Lesvos in Greece with UK charity Hope and Aid Direct. This is great news: it’s not proved easy for us to get aid to Greece in the past.

As they already have aid lined up for most of the five trucks going to Greece in January, we won’t be able to fit in much from our warehouse this time, but we will be able to squeeze in some pushchairs, suitcases, and …. handbags!

Now handbags are a new thing for us to collect, but one of the trademarks of Hope and Aid Direct is to take handbags for the women, filled with womanly things. Although this may sound like a bit of a luxury (they’ve never appeared on any needs list I’ve seen) handbags are something that many women wouldn’t normally leave their homes without. They can be incredibly useful, as well as symbolic and comforting, and can help to restore dignity. Once filled with a selection of small gifts, it’s easy to understand why Hope and Aid Direct’s handbags are so very popular with the refugees.

So, what we need from you now is LOVINGLY FILLED HANDBAGS! As with all donations, they must be in good condition. Please fill your handbag with a selection of small gifts, like: a piece of jewellery, lip balm, wet wipes, hand cream, comb or brush, gloves, tissues, toothpaste, toothbrush, sanitary towels (not tampons), a mirror, a little make up or perfume, a scarf, maybe a little note or card with a greeting, and other things that might normally be carried in a handbag. Please do not include: used cosmetics, food, or anything sharp.

There is a very quick turnaround on this as the convoy is leaving the UK in January and we’ll need to pack and load all the handbags, so the deadline on this is 7th January.

To make this easy for you we have town centre drop off points in both Frome and Bruton, as well as our regular donation drop points.

Oh, and it would be really great if you would print and share the poster! Many thanks!

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Somerset Smiles are flooding in!

Our Somerset Smiles campaign is going brilliantly, with stacks of bags being left at all our drop off points!

Especial thanks go to the pupils at St Julian’s primary school in Wellow, who not only gave us many wonderful gifts for Somerset Smiles bags, but also this lovely press release!

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It’s not too late if you still haven’t dropped your Somerset Smiles bags in. The giving of these gifts ties in with Christmas but most of the children receiving the bags will be Muslim, and they’ll be given the bags in the New Year. So please keep them coming!

Frome FM radio interview

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For those who weren’t able to come to the open meeting earlier this week, but who would like an update on what we’re doing in Frome to help refugees, please listen to this ‘All About Frome‘ radio interview from 22nd November.

Rupert Kirkham interviews Christine Kaltoft about RAISE, and John Careswell about the Frome Syrian Refugee Support Group.

http://fromefm.co.uk/archive/allaboutfrome/161122-allaboutfrome-allaboutfrome.mp3

 

Report from Calais

Great to have received this report back from Jonathan Rendel, who, with his wife Jane, recently delivered aid donations from RAISE to the the Help Refugees warehouse in Calais, and spent several days volunteering there.

Calais, France 07 Nov 2016

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Jonathan and Jane

Every one thanks YOU for your generous donations

We are at the immigrant camp supply depot on the outskirts of Calais – just minutes away from the Chunnel. We are delivering clothes and shoes donated in Somerset and Wiltshire. All collected by the Frome group of volunteers, Refugee Action In Somerset East (RAISE).

We have been helping feed and clothe over 1000 refugees in the Dunkirk refugee camp. In addition we are supplying the wood used to heat and cook.

The range of volunteers here at the huge warehouse supply depot is diverse – all ages – nationalities from UK, Italy, France, Germany, The Netherlands, Belgium, Spain and many more from outside Europe.

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Jonathan with two other volunteers in the warehouse loading bay

But the rows of cars usually parked outside the depot are few now as the Calais Camps close. The Jungle is completely cleared – over 4000 refugees rehomed across France with the 800 unaccompanied children properly housed.

There is no longer the urgency to put together care packages for families – the French Authorities do not let volunteers onto the camps unless it formally agreed with Dunkirk – regular deliveries such as hot lunches and fuel for kitchen cooking are agreed in advance.

Warm up at 09:30 – we are shown how to exercise by the energetic and charismatic team leader. Working teams organisation is much more safety conscious than when we were here last – clothing and hygiene product sorting is the main activity and loading the sorted shoes, boots and trainers onto pallets for delivery by container to the camps in the Lebanon and Greece.

I am staggered as always by the generosity of the donated items – many new clothes and shoes, still with labels, pallets of tinned food and vegetables stacked to 2 meters. Fuel for the wood burner cookers for the immigrants is still being prepared and these deliveries will continue as long as the camps in Dunkirk stay open. Cooking continues for several hundreds of meals per day – one complete section of the warehouse is an industrial kitchen manned totally by volunteers – many professional chefs.

But what is the real situation?

Dunkirk is a different story to Calais. The Mayor of Dunkirk has the same problem as Calais with thousands of refugees in informal camps. In March 2015 the Mayor took over a year’s lease on land between the main motorway and railway and built a formal camp with proper facilities – washing and latrines – proper cabins with central cooking and eating facilities – I worked on these in April 2016.

I hear from the Help the Refugee Charity that the French Authorities are issuing wrist bands to all the refugees on camp until tomorrow – if you do not have a wrist band you cannot have access to the camp and are taken away by coach to be re-homed. There are stories of unaccompanied children bussed away to safe homes only to walk back over several days to spend time with their adoptive parents.

It is unclear what the French Authorities strategy is in Dunkirk with limiting access to the camp – I was informed that getting materials into the camp to repair and update the existing facilities is not easy and winter is with us. One of the problems is heating – the cabins are unheated without electricity and thus are very damp.

Why cannot the immigrants themselves carry out many of the volunteer jobs so they feel they are contributing to their own life? It would seem that the French Authorities agenda is to make sure that all camps near the channel ports are closed and maintaining these camps is only a temporary stop gap – the lease on the Dunkirk camp land runs out in March 2017.

But the accident rate around Calais in cars, lorries and trains is now low due to many fewer migrants risking stowing away in HGVs – police vehicles are very visible in the evening before dark picking up any roving bands of immigrants and sending them by coach to inland facilities.

A positive feeling is with us – now action is being taken to improve the life of migrants in France and they are encouraging migrants to register and apply for asylum in France. Also the state is now contributing to the running costs of the camp and, of course, to the new homes across France.

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The woodyard where pallets are broken up to provide fuel for cooking

What can we do to help?

I spoke to a rep from Calais kitchens which supplies food from the Calais Warehouse to the camp in Dunkirk.

All donations of clothes, shoes, sanitary products etc. are of great value. In addition maintenance is a big issue at Dunkirk – those volunteers registered to be on site can carry out repairs but are desperately short of power drills (they only have one battery drill). They need basic hand tools – hammers, nails and screws, screwdrivers, cutters, saws etc.

All donations are useful – to clarify what is required contact RAISE in Frome – take a look at their website.

To donate money please follow this link.

by Jonathan Rendel