James Crawford describes a productive weekend on CamCRAG’s last convoy of 2021
Seven plucky volunteers piled into two small cars last Friday afternoon, bound for Calais, hours before new travel restrictions came into force.
With the hostel unavailable, the convoy coordinators found new accommodation just yards from the beach – towels included for those who fancied a swim!
James, the coordinator at Collective Aid, was delighted to see us at the warehouse on Saturday morning and we were soon hard at work in chilly, but well ventilated, premises.
Both the catering pack of teabags and the new chainsaw for the woodyard that we brought with us were very well received.
There was a real buzz from all the different groups working alongside each other under one roof. The woodyard team were splitting logs with axes, filling up large metal baskets. The forklift and various distribution vans were in and out of the loading bay regularly.
We were shortly reminded of the importance of all this activity when we popped out to grab some pastries from the supermarket next door. A large group of displaced people, a few meters from the gates, were queuing up for food outside an aid van on a patch of wasteland.
We spent the morning helping Calais Food Collective prepare food crates and load their van for a distribution, and making up blanket packs for a Collective Aid distribution the following week. In the afternoon, we prepared hundreds of hygiene packs and tarpaulins for distribution. The warehouse sound system, and the friendly banter, kept us in high spirits throughout.
The day ended with a lively group meal on Saturday night in the centre of Calais, followed by an atmospheric walk home along the seafront in the thick fog.
The Collective Aid long-termers took a well-earned rest on Sunday, so the CamCRAG Christmas elves cracked on with preparing more blanket packs for distribution. By the time we knocked off, we had managed to clear four whole pallets of boxes, for an extra full distribution run on top of their usual ones, wildly exceeding their expectations.
After a team photo with a couple of new friends, including a giant teddy from Project Play, we headed home early afternoon, anticipating problems at the border because of the latest travel rule changes. It turned out we needn’t have worried as we had a better understanding of the latest UK government rules than the Eurotunnel staff! We arrived home safe and sound with a strong sense of achievement.
Want to come on a future convoy and directly help refugees in the northern France? Sign up at camcrag.org.uk/convoys