Author Archives: ckaltoft

Winter update 2018

Save Our Soles

Our sock campaign is going well: by the end of our sorting session on Monday 3rd December we had reached 402 pairs of socks!

We’re not quite half way to our target of 1,000 socks, and it’s not long before our donation drop points close for Christmas, so please help by donating new socks or money as soon as you can! The button below will take you straight to our fundraising page.

Visit my fundraising page on BT MyDonate

Christmas dates

This Christmas we’ll be taking a short break. The last days to donate aid will be as follows:

Frome, Cheese and Grain: 12.00 – 14.00 Monday 17th December

Bruton, Mill on the Brue: 9.00 – 17.00 Thursday 20th December

Glastonbury, Children’s World: 13.00 – 15.00 Friday 14th December

In January all three donation drop points will be open as usual during the week beginning 7th January.

We wish you a warm and happy festive season!

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Save Our Soles!

This year our winter appeal is for 1,000 pairs of socks. Having warm, dry feet is a basic human need, and links directly to well-being and health. Many refugees will not have even this essential comfort that most of us take for granted. In this campaign we aim to collect donations of both new socks and money to buy socks.

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The socks donated will be given to refugees in Calais, Greece and Syria through our normal distribution networks. We welcome socks for men, women and children, but please make them new winter socks! They can be dropped off at our regular donation drop points in Frome, Bruton and Glastonbury, and we hope to add more sock-specific donation drop points just for this appeal.

If you would like to donate money so socks can be bought at bulk prices you can do this on our special fundraising page: https://mydonate.bt.com/fundraisers/raisesos. The money we raise in this way will go direct to Help Refugees, and will be earmarked for this purpose only.

We would love it if you or your community group, school, college or workplace would like to get involved, either by holding a ‘sock drop’ for us, or by holding a fundraising event. This might include a coffee morning, clothes swishing event, car boot or jumble sale: anything (legal) really!

Please do contact us if you’d like a flier or poster to support your sock drop, or if we can help you promote your sock drop or fundraising event by posting it in our facebook group!

 

Art Extravaganza!

Do come along to the Silk Mill in Frome this weekend for our fabulous art extravaganza!

Volunteer and local artist Lorna Thomas has been rallying renowned artists and local Somerset talent to join forces in support of refugees. The result is an action packed weekend on 24th and 25th February, with a great array of art for you to see, make and buy, plus live music, refreshments, and plenty of fun.

We’ll also be accepting donations of new or nearly new children’s art materials for Help4Refugee Children to use in creative workshops with refugee children in France and London (see needs list below).

Look forward to seeing you there!

RAISE art poster finalH4RC-Item-List-2_pdf

Cheese & Grain donation drop begins!

So pleased to let you know that for the month of February we’re going to be holding donation drops every Monday lunchtime at the Cheese & Grain!

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This iconic and action packed building is for many at the very heart and soul of Frome, and so we’re very much looking forward to introducing new people to the work that RAISE does, and hopefully we’ll bring more people in to see the many wonderful things going in in the Cheese & Grain too! We will be accepting clothing for men, women and children, blankets, sleeping bags, and smaller items like toiletries, footwear, walking sticks. Our volunteers will be in the cafe near reception.

You can ONLY leave  your donations at the Cheese & Grain on Monday lunchtimes between 12.00 and 14.00.

For donations at other times during the week, and for larger items (like wheelchairs and zimmer frames), we ask that you take donations to Storagebase in Cornbrash full address and opening times here.

Please note we will no longer be accepting donations on Monday afternoons at Your Storage Space in Wallbridge (although we are still sorting and packing there).

New donation drop point in Glastonbury!

Thanks to our friends in Children’s World, we now have an active donation drop point in Glastonbury! This is fantastic news, as in 2015 we started collecting aid for refugees in Glastonbury, Frome and Bruton: now we can offer this service locally in all three towns again.

Children’s World are an amazing local charity, who work with children both in the UK and abroad. We have collaborated with them before, as they have transported trailers full of aid donations from RAISE to Calais when they have been running their fun-based workshops with refugee children in the camps.

Now they have kindly offered to be a satellite donation drop point for people in the Glastonbury area who want to donate items of aid to refugees via RAISE. Sorting and packing will still be done in our main warehouse space in Frome, where we welcome volunteers 13.30 – 15.30 on Monday afternoons.

Donations will be accepted in Glastonbury between 13.00 and 15.00 on Friday afternoons (except Bank Holidays). Please only donate the items listed on our regular list, which you can find here. Aid will be given to refugees resettled locally as well as to those in to Europe, the Middle East, and beyond.

The address is Children’s World, 28 Northload Street, Glastonbury BA6 9JJ. Click here for a map.

Please click for more information on our Frome donation drop points, and on our Bruton satellite drop point.

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February update

Sorry this is going to be incredibly brief as I’ve broken my right arm!

In short, since my last update:

  • our appeal for 100 filled handbags for women in refugee camps was vastly exceeded: we managed to fit in 325, plus suitcases and pushchairs, to join the other vital aid taken by Hope and Aid Direct to Thessaloniki and Lesvos, and have 85 more bags packed and ready to go on the next trip;
  • our Winter Survival appeal is still going well. We’ve already raised £1,045, most of which we’ve already spent on SNUG packs and sleeping bags, many of which have already been sent out for distribution to those sleeping rough in mainland Europe;
  • we have also managed to send several van loads of sorted and packed aid to RAFT in Taunton for Syria;
  • we got a sorting and packing backlog during January when our focus was on the handbags, but our wonderful volunteer team managed to catch up and are now eagerly awaiting more donations;
  • meanwhile the situation continues to be dire for many refugees in Europe and the Middle East, so your help is very much needed.

More information on what aid we are collecting is here: https://raise.today/how-you-can-help-now/frome-donation-drops/ 

And if you can donate money please do so here: https://raise.today/how-you-can-help-now/frome-donation-drops/

More news, links and pictures next time!

Volunteering in Northern Greece

By Camilla Gavin

Richard and I are just back from 3 weeks volunteering at a refugee camp in Northern Greece and thought it might be of interest to people to hear about our experience there.

Well, where to start…it’s been such an exhausting, life enhancing, inspirational time it’s difficult to know where to begin. So I’ll start by telling you who we volunteered with.

We signed up as volunteers with a small organisation called Intervolve (they are on Facebook, their website is in construction). It was formed by an international group of people who met while they were all volunteering at Idomeni camp on the Macedonian border back in early 2016. It is now a professional and incredibly hardworking group, funded in part by Help Refugees, that supports the residents of the Softex refugee camp (so called because it’s on the site of a redundant loo roll factory!). Softex is on the outskirts of Thessaloniki in a grim industrial trading estate beside a huge oil refinery. Intervolve are based at a warehouse 100 metres from Softex.

The international team of volunteers we worked with at Intervolve were a truly inspirational bunch, incredibly hardworking, dedicated and compassionate and a diverse mix ranging from a Canadian Archaeologist to a Spanish Biomedical scientist! Half our age and with twice as much energy they work 6 days a week often 10 hour days. It was truly life enhancing spending time with such a positive, energetic and warm bunch of people…and they amazingly seemed to enjoy having a couple of oldies amongst them!

So, what did we do? Well, amongst many things we twice a week went to the local vegetable wholesaler and bought a large van full of fresh fruit and veg which was then bagged up and distributed to the camp residents to supplement the meagre and depressing Greek army rations they were dependent on. Having fresh food like lemons, parsley and fresh tomatoes meant they could cook for themselves, and cook what their children wanted and were used to eating at home in Syria. Choice and autonomy are so important to people and yet so difficult to achieve in a situation like this. Intervolve also supplied chickpeas and rice, pasta,tea and sugar. We also twice a week opened the ‘Boutique’, a very grand name for a room in the camp that was full of rails and shelves of donated clothing. Each family was able to visit twice a month to stock up on warm clothes, winter coats, jumpers, hijabs, new underwear, you name it, we had it.

The picture below is of Intervolve volunteers bagging up veg prior to distribution.

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I had a lovely time helping Mums find clothes for their babies and children, often jiggling babies on my knee to free up time for Mum to sort what she needed. I cannot tell you how moving it could be to see a young girl made so happy because she had found a jumper she loved or a pair of trousers that fitted, or showing a delighted pregnant Mum a box of maternity trousers! Believe me these people have so little, we all know how a new item of clothing can really cheer one up, well this could sometimes be the best experience in someone’s week.

Richard had a slightly less rewarding time, as he was on the Men’s side of the boutique, and men the world over are hopeless at clothes shopping (I’m generalising I know) and often left looking faintly ridiculous with barely fitting clothes that they had taken 30 seconds to select!

So keep your donations coming, but remember no short skirts, skimpy clothes, nothing white (washing clothes is difficult) and in as best condition as you can manage. Men’s jogging bottoms and hoodies for all ages are especially in short supply.

The picture below is of Richard in the boutique adjusting the Tshirt pile!

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Intervolve also run daily English and Basic computer skills classes in a school room they have funded as well as Women’s Hours where women can go and just be together, and maybe chat, dance or relax. They have a fabulous Lebanese woman volunteer who works tirelessly to arrange community activities that help to ease the boredom and inevitable tensions that arise with people living in such awful conditions.

And what’s the camp like? Well, bluntly, it’s pretty horrifying.

Most of the 450 mainly Syrian residents live in UNHCR tents inside the old concrete warehouse. There is very little natural light, no proper loos, just a few portaloos, basins attached to the outside of the building, nowhere to wash clothes and a very few showers. Outside some people are now also living in shipping containers that have been adapted to basic rooms. There is no proper electricity supply, and there are deadly electric cables running along the ground that regularly catch fire. Why no one has been electrocuted I cannot imagine. When it’s not below freezing (it was -11c when we arrived and snowy) the ground is thick with mud. This is nearly one year after the first refugees arrived here. The Greek army are supposed to be looking after the logistics of the site, but to be honest, it’s very hard to see what they are doing. The International Red Cross and Save the Children both have smart warm portacabins on site, with large expensive 4 x 4’s outside, but it’s hard to see where the millions of EU funding are going, certainly not here. Intervolve assure us that conditions are way better now than last summer when up to 1,200 people were living here.

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The refugees at Softex are mainly people who became trapped at the Macedonian border last year after the border closed. They are now registered with the Greek Government and are waiting for their asylum claims to be dealt with. Thankfully, people are starting to be moved on, they have no choice where, and gradually, gradually, with glacial slowness these applications are being processed. While we were there 60 people had heard that they had been given asylum in Ireland and Holland and they will be leaving for new lives in these countries within another month or two. I so desperately hope they are met there with kindness and warmth, they so deserve it. The strength and stoicism particularly of the women with small children was humbling. They have all been through unimaginable experiences and being at Softex for the last 9 months has not been easy, to say the least.

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If you were considering a spot of ‘hands on’ experience I couldn’t recommend it highly enough! As long as you are prepared to work very hard, you would find as we did, that it was probably the most fulfilling, exhausting and meaningful thing you have done in years.

On a practical note – we rented an Airbnb appartment in Thessaliniki and a hire car (fairly essential to get out to the camp). Flights to direct to Thessaloniki are pretty cheap from both Gatwick and Stanstead.