Want to spend a weekend in Calais making a real difference to refugees’ lives?
Our volunteer convoys leave Cambridge on Friday evenings, returning Sunday evenings. We help organise the car share and pay for the ferry or train crossing, and arrange accommodation at the youth hostel in Calais. You will work two full days with NGOs based in the area who provide direct support to refugees.
If you are joining a convoy, please make sure your passport is up to date with a minimum of 3 months to run and, if you are volunteering to be a driver, please note the vehicle and driving requirements below.
Registering for our next Convoy
Registration for our next convoy, Friday 23 September to Sunday 25 September, is now open:
Register online at camcrag.org.uk/convoyregister
- The post-convoy reflections meeting will be on 4 October (more about reflection meetings below).
Provisional future convoy dates
October 28-30 • November 25-27 • December 16-18
Registration for convoys usually opens 4 or 5 weeks before the convoy, and closes 2 to 3 weeks before the convoy.
Post-brexit convoy requirements
- Issued less than 10 years before the date you enter the country (check the ‘date of issue’)
- Valid for at least 3 months after the day you plan to leave (check the ‘expiry date’)
The Brexit deal includes a reciprocal healthcare scheme to enable British travellers visiting the EU to get medically necessary healthcare for a reduced cost or for free. If you have a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), it will still be valid, and when it runs out you will be able to apply for its new equivalent: the Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC). The card is free and available from the NHS.
- Full and valid driver’s licence. If you do not have a photo card driving licence you will likely need an International Driving Permit (IDP), available from the post office .
- V5C vehicle registration document .
- Passport valid for at least 3 months after the day you plan to leave.
- Reflective (‘hi-vis’) jackets for all passengers.
- Warning triangle.
- Two NF-approved breathalysers.
- Headlamp beam deflectors.
- UK sticker on rear of vehicle, unless the license plate has a UK identifier and flag (NOT a GB/EU identifier)
More info at gov.uk/displaying-number-plates/flags-symbols-and-identifiers
- Please note that speed camera detectors and sat-navs with camera locations are not permitted .
More about our convoys
What’s the need?
Although the Calais camp was dismantled in 2016, there are still many hundreds of refugees living rough in the scrublands around the town, including many children and teenagers, and they are under constant pressure from the police and hostile local government.
The aid groups operating from the warehouse run by L’Auberge des Migrants, which include Refugee Community Kitchen, Collective Aid, Calais Food Collective and Project Play, continue to distribute food, sanitary kits, clothing, tents and sleeping bags, and CamCRAG is proud to support them by sending weekend convoys of donations and volunteers. The warehouse also provides aid to associations operating in Dunkirk, Paris and elsewhere in Europe.
What would I do?
There are numerous tasks that need doing in Calais, and no previous experience is required. Volunteers sort and pack donations, peel and prepare food, load and unload vans. No one is paid and there is a great team spirit – and we often receive an excellent lunch provided by Refugee Community Kitchen (RCK).
Though we often work with RCK and they are very keen for support, they are sadly not able to operate every weekend due to volunteer shortages. It is therefore possible that you will be working in the warehouse for the weekend. Be assured whatever work you get involved in you will be much needed and appreciated.
Please note that convoy weekends are quite physical and the environment is a working warehouse so you do need to be in general good health. There are many tasks so jobs can be found to suit your physical ability but it is not a suitable environment for those who find movement difficult.
What’s it like?
To get an idea of what it’s like to join a CamCRAG convoy for the first time, read these reports from some of our volunteers (most recent first):
- April 2022 – Read about Millie’s first convoy.
- March 2022 – Ben went on his second convoy. Read his report here.
- February 2022 – Ella’s first convoy – read her report here.
- November 2021 – Read Tony’s report here.
- October 2021 – This report from Catharine.
- September 2021 – Ollie joined his first convoy. Read his account of his experience here.
- You can also read Freya’s first time convoy experience from September 2019.
- Estere went on her first convoy in June 2018 – follow this link to read her report.
Here’s what some volunteers from previous convoys have said:
“Be open minded, willing to help with whatever needs doing, take plenty of layers, be prepared that your experiences will change your perspectives on returning home!”
“Working alongside amazing people, who were giving up their time to help, was quite emotional and very very humbling. I don’t think ‘rollercoaster’ is a word that can be overused.”
“The moment you actually act, you are there to help, you give some tiny hope to the refugees and it is something that penetrates deep inside. It is like planting a seed for the future. So just do it.”
Sol Escobar made this short film of our January 2019 convoy:
When do you go?
Convoys leave Cambridge on Friday evenings and return on Sunday evenings. We stay in the youth hostel in Calais and work two full days in the warehouse. See the top of this page for the dates of upcoming convoys and a link to apply the next one.
I’d love to but I’m not free at weekends!
We are considering running midweek convoys, possibly Tuesday to Thursday. If you would be interested in this please email email@example.com.
I’d love to go but I can’t afford it!
We recognise that not everyone who would like to volunteer can afford to go to Calais. We therefore have a limited number of subsidised places, for which CamCRAG will pay accommodation, leaving just personal food to be paid by the volunteer. Applicants will need to demonstrate evidence of financial need (e.g. housing benefit or JSA). If you would like to volunteer as a driver but are unable to make the up front payment for the channel crossing we may also be able to help. In the first instance we encourage you to discuss your situation with the convoy coordinators by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
What about Covid?
Please note covid vaccination is no longer a requirement for volunteering to go on a convoy to Calais. Unvaccinated individuals will be responsible for organising and paying for any legal requirements to enter France. It should be noted that unvaccinated individuals can be considered a safe proposition in as much as they will need to meet additional entry requirements to cross into France.
We would request that everyone takes individual responsibility regarding their covid risk: Please do not come on a convoy if you are experiencing any covid symptoms (or indeed symptoms of any other infectious disease).
If you are concerned about the possibility of sharing a car or room with an unvaccinated individual then you are encouraged to discuss this with the convoy coordinators.
Post convoy reflection meetings
After each volunteer convoy to France, a space is arranged for people to meet, usually in person, to reflect on their recent experiences.
This space is open to any CamCRAG volunteers, not just those who have recently been on a convoy. In our experience all kinds of thoughts and feelings arise from volunteering, and sharing them can be beneficial. Talking can be important to help think about how you feel in response to the trip or to the plight of refugees around the world.
Sometimes there are also practical things that should be addressed in relation to how the convoys are run, sometimes it’s our emotional response to something that we have witnessed, sometimes it’s as simple as just being in a shared space with other people who have been through the same experiences as you and really get it.
Whilst there is no requirement for convoy volunteers to attend, we find that often people benefit far more than they would have predicted and planning it in as a part of the weekend experience helps to give closure to the whole event.
The meetings are run by Wendy Croft, Daniela Fernandez Catherall and Nina Brauner, and there will usually be two of them overseeing each session. By day they are clinical psychologists in the NHS, but their role at the meetings is to hold the space.
Cakes and/or biscuits are provided, along with tea and coffee.
Each Convoy Reflection is held at the City Church Cambridge, Brickfields House, 15-16 Cheddars Lane, Cambridge, CB5 8LD, starting at 7.30pm and finishing by 9pm.
We are also looking at options for people to join discussions remotely via digital means.