Middle of January. Cold. Chris reports on CamCRAG’s first weekend convoy to Calais of 2024.
We were a mix of returning volunteers and a handful of newcomers, including me. All were welcomed with open arms. The warmth of it was palpable. Overwhelming. The cold suffered by many others that night was dispelled for us. We were lucky.
Well directed enthusiasm is incredibly powerful and in a busy, packed warehouse here are volunteers cooking good hot food, there are volunteers sorting children’s toys and educational/entertainment materials, here are volunteers sorting and labelling clothes, tents, sleeping bags and shoes, there are volunteers chopping and sawing wood for fuel, here are volunteers cleaning, scrubbing and tidying- ensuring this astonishing building, that distributes the very basic things that people in desperate circumstances need, is clean and safe and efficient.
Key to all this activity and hard work is a lot of planning and commitment. But also fun. ‘Fun’ sounds trivial. It isn’t.
The work of CamCRAG and other NGOs and communitarian groups is pertinacious, consequential and often courageous, but the CamCRAG ethos also recognises that if people are having fun, they’ll very likely be more effective. Being a small part of something that seeks to enhance the welfare of fellow human beings using your shoulder or brain is all the better if you’re enjoying it and along with tremendous music played suitably loudly (and democratically chosen) there’s space to talk, laugh and share experience (s), ideas and thoughts.
In the evening there’s a wonderful meal and a few drinks in town. Later, an enigmatic and enchanted karaoke bar for those who crave a splash of secret limelight ( and even for those who don’t ).
There’s joy in collective activity and CamCRAG exemplifies it.
As someone who has a comfortable and safe existence surrounded by friends and loved ones, I’m incredibly fortunate. Spending even a minuscule amount of your time involved in significant group effort is valuable for the difference it makes, but perhaps more so for the way it challenges you- your perspective, your presumptions.
We’re all the same, but some of us have been dealt a cruel and unjust hand. Helping, however you frame it, is a moral good whatever your politics or cultural/religious predisposition. Is motivation important? One for an all-night discussion and some wine. Outcome is the thing. If you can do something, no matter how small, this is good. If you yourself are profoundly changed by the experience, the effects can ripple in ways you can’t begin to imagine and influence real progress. Real transformation.
Action is the antidote to despair. Love conquers everything.
What is revolution if it’s not of the heart?
Do you want to spend a weekend in Calais providing practical help to NGOs that support refugees? Find out more about our convoys and register for the next one at camcrag.org.uk/convoys