Peter went on his first convoy to Calais in June.
I haven’t done anything ‘like this’ before, and I didn’t know what to expect, but this is why I signed up. I wanted to see how a non-profit organisation supporting refugees works. I also felt like this would be a good opportunity to get a little bit more familiar with the situation in Calais, and generally with the politics around the refugee crisis in Europe.
It’s really easy to go on one of these convoys. Getting to Calais and back, accommodation, and local transport is all organised by CamCRAG. Volunteers depart from Cambridge on Friday afternoon in shared cars. Two people share a room in a youth hostel, where breakfast is provided, and the accommodation is in central Calais, very close to the beach!
After our arrival on Friday, we went out for dinner and drinks straight away with the other CamCRAG volunteers and the more senior members gave a small introduction to the work in the warehouse.
On Saturday, after 8am breakfast, we made our way to the warehouse. After the morning briefing we were given a short tour. We spread ourselves around the different available tasks, ranging from kitchen work to clothes sorting to tent repairs: washing and chopping vegetables for Refugee Community Kitchen, sizing and sorting clothes and shoes, checking and fixing tents.
On Saturday afternoon I had the opportunity to go on a food distribution to Dunkirk. The group consisted of two experienced volunteers, who explained us the workflo, and three other team members. We were explained the portioning rules (“give as much or as little as they ask for”), the basics of health and safety “in the field”, the usage of different safe words, and a potential evacuation procedure; but were also reassured that most distributions go smoothly. We spent around three hours in total at two different places, during which we gave away more than 500 hot meals.
On Sunday I wanted to try something new, so I joined the tent section. I felt it was more creative than the other tasks since the tents are all different, and figuring out how to build one was a challenge in itself. Then one had to check for tears, broken poles, missing parts and any other usability issues. Those were fixed using the tools and materials in the tent workspace. Good tents were then marked as checked and sorted into categories based on their capacity. Since I really enjoyed this task, I ended up doing it until the end of the day.
The CamCRAG groups started heading back around 5 pm on Sunday so that they could get back in good time. We spent the whole travel time chatting about our fresh experiences and reflecting on the weekend. On the Tuesday ten days later CamCRAG held a debrief meeting, at which we could ask any questions we had. It was also nice to catch up with others and remember the shared memories from the weekend volunteering together.
Thank you to all the wonderful volunteers who came on our convoy in June