Schoolgirls and city church team up to help Calais refugees


A group of Cambridge schoolgirls have slept out in the open to raise funds for refugees.

The five youngsters at St Matthew’s Primary School aged nine and ten spent the night in a tent and raised £1,000 in sponsorship from friends and family. They have chosen to spend the money on sleeping bags for refugees from Syria, Sudan and other war torn countries elsewhere based in Calais, as well as food parcels.

St Columba’s United Reformed Church in Downing St, Cambridge has provided a minibus to transport the items to Calais as part of a convoy organised by the Cambridge Calais Refugee Action Group (CamCRAG) this weekend (Nov 28/29). The church has raised a total of £2,000 with a recent collection which will be split between CamCRAG and Medecins San Frontieres which is administering medical aid at the camp.

Macy Dexter, aged 9, had the idea for a fundraising event when she saw news coverage about the plight of refugees.

Macy said: “When I learned that people are dying trying to find a safe place to live with their families, I wanted to do something to help. I realised many of my classmates felt the same and a group of us got together to raise money to help those who are cold and hungry.IMG_0114

“We were pleased to get back to our warm beds after camping out for a night, but sad that so many people do not have that choice. If everyone can do a bit more to help, we can make life a bit easier for people who have lost everything.”

St Columba’s Church Minister, Nigel Uden, said: “St Columba’s members have watched with dismay the scenes from Calais and in some parts of Europe.  We support both in principle and in practice the call of most of the UK’s churches to both accept a far greater number of refugees, and far quicker.

“We have followed the news in helpless horror as it has tracked the journeys of refugees fleeing from conflict. Long after each crises moment fades from the headlines, there remains a complicated set of problems how best to welcome people in great need and how to match their needs with those of the established communities they enter.

“Gathering blankets, building materials and food to send to the refugee camp in Calais is vital work, and at least gives us a feeling of doing something. Yet on its own this falls short of a satisfactory response to the overwhelming need in such a complex and fast changing situation.”

Lara Brettell, chair of CamCRAG, said: “These girls are such an inspiration, and we’re so happy to be helping them get their donation to the camp in Calais. We’re also so grateful for the kindness of the congregation at St Columba’s.

“Since the summer so many people in Cambridge have shown their support for the people stuck in a desperate situation in Calais and further afield across Europe. They are fleeing from the very real threats of war, torture, terrorism and oppression in their homelands, but now winter is approaching and they need shelter and safety. We will be taking generators along with us on our convoy this weekend to provide electricity for the camp’s residents and also a team of people to help sort and distribute aid and build shelters.”