Poncho 600 Challenge

ponchos worn by refugees in CalaisWe’re hoping to make 600 ponchos for refugees in France by our February convoy – can you help?

Following very positive feedback from both refugees and volunteers on the ponchos we made over the past few months for distribution in Calais, we’re making more! We’re hoping to make 600 ponchos to go on our next convoy, which leaves Cambridge on Friday 23 February – so we need your help if we’re to make the deadline!

How to get involved

No experience is necessary, you don’t even need a sewing machine (though it helps). If you are unable to help this month, but have a sewing machine we could borrow, please do get in touch via ponchos@camcrag.org.uk

Group Sewing Sessions @
Cambridge Artworks
We have booked the Artworks studio for a week for group sewing sessions.
These sessions will be led by experienced poncho makers and no previous experience is necessary.
Please bring friends and family.
Children are also very welcome but must be supervised.
Friday 9 to Friday 16 February inclusive
10am (except Fridays when we start at 11am)
Cambridge Artworks Studio, 5 Green’s Road, CB4 3EF
Please sign up here or email us
Group Sewing Event @
Trumpington Pavilion
A one-off evening sewing session, where we will be making ponchos and crafts from the offcuts.
Monday 19 February
6.30pm to 9pm
Trumpington Pavilion, Paget Road, Trumpington CB2 9JF
Please email Carol to sign up for this event:
Sew ponchos at home
You will need a sewing machine, and to collect blankets and the sewing pattern from us.Please email us to get started.

For the group sewing sessions please bring the following if you can:

  • Sewing machine
  • Extension lead
  • Scissors, unpickers, tailors chalk, tape measure, black/grey thread, pin cushion – please WRITE YOUR NAME on all your items.
  • food and drink to share
Background to the project: The problem

In the autumn of 2017 we were considering the problem of how to help refugees in France stay warm, especially at night. Blankets have a short half-life – often discarded within days – partly because they are difficult to carry, and partly because they are easily confiscated by the police.

Aid organisations in Calais are reluctant to distribute good quality clothing – e.g. jumpers – until they have several hundred, as only giving a few refugees such items can lead to disagreements and increased tension. Buying hundreds of items of new clothing would also be prohibitively expensive for a small charity like CamCRAG. What was needed was cheap, wearable, warm items which could easily be purchased or made in bulk.

The solutionblanket to poncho

To turn cheap blankets into wearable ponchos! By bulk purchasing simple blankets, obtaining a sewing pattern, and organising a weekend sewing session, we were able to produce 125 ponchos to send to Calais before Christmas!

They proved popular with refugees, so we made another batch of 300 to go out with our January convoy – and we purchased waterproof ponchos to keep them dry in the wintry weather.

This batch was kindly been funded by a grant from the Radley Trust, your donations, and a bulk-buy discount on blankets from Ikea.

But we wanted this to be an ongoing project, so we can carry on making ponchos!

How you can helpPonchos

If you can’t get involved this month but have ideas for the project we’d love to hear from you!

Perhaps you can’t sew, but you can think of a corporate or private sponsor who would be interested in financing a batch?

Or you know somewhere to buy blankets made locally out of sustainable materials, thereby reducing the air miles and environmental cost of manufacture?

Email us at ponchos@camcrag.org.uk