Thank you to everyone who came to our annual get together and AGM last Thursday: It was a lovely evening among friends old and new, all united in showing our solidarity with and support to refugees in Europe.
Thank you too to the volunteers who helped on the night, and to Samer and Maysaa for the delicious food.
The evening began with CamCRAG’s Annual General Meeting, a review of the year gone by and the re-election of trustees by the charity’s members. This year three trustees stood down: Dan Ellis, Mary Regnier-Wilson (Treasurer) and Sarah Manton-Roseblade (Convoys). We would like to thank them for the incredible amount of hard work they have put in to build CamCRAG from its foundation as a Facebook group three years ago to the growing charity it is today.
Members at the meeting confirmed the three new trustees who stood for election: Joanna Garratt, who becomes CamCRAG’s treasurer, Catharine Walston (Communications), and Tony King (who is leading the SOS tents project). With their help and yours, we can make life a bit easier for refugees sleeping rough in Europe this winter.
Plans were discussed for the months ahead, including a second sponsored sleepout event in January and other fundraising events in 2019. The need for our help in Calais was vividly illustrated by our guest speakers, Steve Bedlam and Rowan Farrell, and we thank them both for their time in coming to Cambridge to share their knowledge. Conditions for refugees living rough in northern France are never good, but with winter approaching and donations low in volume the need has never been greater.
Steve, one of the co-founders of Refugee Community Kitchen, explained how the project had grown from the kitchens in Calais to supporting operations in Greece and the Balkans, as well as helping to feed the homeless in London. RCK still prepares 1,000 meals a day to feed refugees in the Calais and Dunkirk area. CamCRAG volunteers often end up helping in the kitchen on our convoy weekends – why not come along on our next one in November?
Rowan Farrell, co-founder of Refugee InfoBus, talked about the importance of access to information for refugees. This means both physical infrastructure, such as working phones, charging points and internet access, as well as content, such as clear concise asylum information in a variety of appropriate languages. The Infobus began as a converted van in the Calais ‘Jungle’, providing a wifi hotspot from a mast connected to the mobile network, and charging from generators. They now provide practical and legal information, as well as games and books to pass the time while phones are charging.
We then heard from Kirsten Lavers on the highly successful first year of the CamCRAG poncho project, which turns cheap blankets into effective warm ponchos for distribution to refugees in France. Their incredible volunteers made over 1,000 ponchos last year, but they’re hoping to beat that this winter. Whether you can sew or can learn to, you can help them reach their target – look out for their sewing sessions this autumn.
Finally Rachel Greene outlined the numerous ways you can help us to help refugees this winter: By going on a convoy, collecting donations or organising a donation drop off day, fundraising, helping to make ponchos from blankets or tents from tarpaulin, or helping our communications team to promote what we do online and in person.
Thank you to all our supporters, and we look forward to working together to help refugees in the year ahead.
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