A tale of two cities – the big Cambridge-Calais sleepout
Thank you to everyone who took part in the big Cambridge-Calais sleepout on homeless Sunday, 28 January, and helped us raise over £11,000 for CamCRAG and Wintercomfort!
Funds to help feed refugees
We are proud to announce that during the winter we are funding Refugee Community Kitchen £1000 each month, to help them continue to provide food for refugees in the Calais and Dunkirk regions.
Over the past two years we have supported numerous projects in Europe.
In March 2018 we gave £500 to help set up the Calais Laundry project, which is installing washing machines in a shipping container at the Help Refugees warehouse in Calais, to reduce the amount of clothing that is discarded by refugees who have limited access to washing facilities and no access to a laundry.
Emergency Paris funding
In February 2018, as snow began to fall in Paris, we authorised £1000 of emergency funds, much of which was spent on hand and body warming gel packs. Two of our volunteers in Paris distributed most of these within three days of us purchasing them, and the remainder were given to Paris Refugee Ground Support and Solidarithé to distribute. We also bought Solidarithé some paper cups and printing supplies so that they can continue to offer hot drinks and information to those sleeping rough in the city.
Humans 4 Humanity
In December 2017 Humans 4 Humanity, who provide aid to the Moria camp in Lesvos, Greece, lost a sponsor and found themselves unable to pay for their hire van, with which they transport aid and refugees from their warehouse to the camp. CamCRAG was able to respond within three days and send them £1000 via Donate4Refugees, to cover a month’s van rental.
Responding to incidents of trench foot among refugees sleeping rough in northern France, this was an inter-association project to raise £20,000 by Christmas 2017 to buy 1000 waterproof boots for refugees in Calais and Dunkirk. By the end of 2017 we had together raised over £22,000, and the boots had been distributed to those in need by Help Refugees and Care4Calais.
Volunteers working in Paris over the winter of 2016/17 realised that a lack of information, as much as food and clothing, was a major obstacle for refugees living on the streets. Their response was Solidarithé, a small grassroots organisation providing daily hot drinks to refugees in Paris, alongside information on where to access showers, legal advice and other services. CamCRAG provided funds and support at an early stage. Since inception the project has grown, and the daily distribution now regularly
includes art therapy and French lessons, now run out of Sciences Po University.
In Spring 2017, CamCRAG worked together with CalAID and Utopia 56 to fund a blanket washing project in Paris. Utopia 56 had stored many blankets discarded on the streets of Paris due to them becoming wet, lice or scabies-ridden, pepper-sprayed, or people having to leave them behind due to being suddenly moved on by the authorities. CamCRAG spent £1,500 on the deep clean and sterilisation of 2,000 blankets at a local laundry so they could be given out to refugees forced to sleep on the streets. Not only was this cheaper than buying new blankets, but also a more environmentally friendly option than simply sending the blankets to landfill.
At the start of 2017 temperatures were plummeting to -7°C in French cities and there was great concern
about the welfare of refugees sleeping rough. CamCRAG collaborated with other refugee support groups, including Herts for Refugees and Side by Side, and purchased military surplus sleeping bags and bivvy bags (waterproof covers that make it feasible to survive in a sleeping bag even in the rain and snow). Teams of volunteers repaired the bags with some stitching. Along with some newly purchased bivvy bags, these were rapidly delivered to Calais and Paris and distributed to those in need.
In June of 2017, via one of our volunteers who made a trip to help in Greece, we were able to provide
£920 worth of food, nappies and toiletries to the Hope Café, a new organisation created by previous Calais volunteers, which welcomes and feeds refugee families in Athens.
Refugee workers in Greece sent an urgent call-out for help over the summer of 2017 to provide vital items for women in refugee camps in the area. CamCRAG formed a project team which collected hundreds of nappies and sanitary towels. These were delivered to the CalAID warehouse in Slough, from where they were sent to Ioannina in Northern Greece and distributed by CalAID.
In October 2016, we received an urgent call-out from volunteers at L’Auberge des Migrants, the warehouse supporting refugees in the then ‘Jungle’ refugee camp in Calais. Local authorities had announced a date for closure of the camp, and only certain volunteers had been issued passes to attend the demolition. As previous partial demolitions had been carried out with violence, and the rumours were that shops and communal buildings, including electricity supplies, would be the first point of target for demolition, volunteers with passes were concerned that they would have no way of reporting on the demolition and documenting any human rights abuses if their phones ran out of batteries. Within a day CamCRAG was able to purchase 50 battery packs, worth more than £600, and charge them overnight. One of our volunteers delivered the packs to Calais the following day, where they were distributed to volunteers in time for the demolition.
Since its inception in February 2016, Phone Credit for Refugees and Displaced People has received over £2,400 from CamCRAG to help provide vital phone credit to both adult and child refugees across Europe and beyond.
Techfugees and IT equipment
CamCRAG assisted in forming and funding a project to update the warehouse IT systems for L’Auberge des Migrants, by introducing technical expertise from Techfugees Cambridge and facilitating funding from a generous corporate donor.
We have also supported several technological/educational initiatives such as taking re-purposed
laptops to the Jungle Books Kids Café for IT skills training and general education (before the demolition
of the camp), helping to source laptops for admins of the Phone Credit for Refugees and Displaced
Persons group; and arranging for laptops and phones donated from Cambridge Assessment to be delivered to Refugee Youth Service for their mobile youth service project.