In the autumn of 2017 we were considering the problem of how to help refugees in France stay warm, especially at night. Blankets have a short half-life – often discarded within days – partly because they are difficult to carry, and partly because they are easily confiscated by the police.
Aid organisations in Calais are reluctant to distribute good quality clothing – e.g. jumpers – until they have several hundred, as only giving a few refugees such items can lead to disagreements and increased tension. Buying hundreds of items of new clothing would also be prohibitively expensive for a small charity like CamCRAG. What was needed was cheap, wearable, warm items which could easily be purchased or made in bulk.
To turn cheap blankets into wearable ponchos! By bulk purchasing simple blankets, obtaining a sewing pattern, and organising a weekend sewing session, we were able to produce 125 ponchos to send to Calais before Christmas!
They proved popular with refugees, so we are currently making another batch to go out with our January convoy – and we have purchased waterproof ponchos to keep them dry in the wintry weather.
This batch has kindly been funded by a grant from the Radley Trust, your donations, and a bulk-buy discount on blankets from Ikea.
But we want this to be an ongoing project, so we can carry on making ponchos!
How you can help
Do you have a sewing machine? Making ponchos for refugees can be family fun – and you can do it at home!
Or why not organise a sewing session with friends at a local club or community centre?
Perhaps you can’t sew, but you can think of a corporate or private sponsor who would be interested in financing the next batch?
Or you know somewhere to buy blankets made locally out of sustainable materials, thereby reducing the air miles and environmental cost of manufacture?
We would love to hear from you if you have ideas for our poncho project, or just want to start sewing! Email firstname.lastname@example.org