A team from St John’s Parish in Moira, County Down made a five-day trip to France in July to volunteer at a facility serving the ‘Calais Jungle’ refugee camp.
They worked alongside volunteers from other countries in a huge warehouse which serves the camp and its 7,000 inhabitants, sorting shoes and clothes as well as boxing and bagging food items.
The Diocesan news article on the Church of Ireland website explains:
To preserve the dignity of the refugees, very few of the volunteers actually go into the Calais Camp but Diane and Iain had one very brief visit. They saw the reality of everyday life there and chatted with some Sudanese, Ethiopian and Afghan refugees as well as visiting the multi–denominational church.
Simon Henry, Diane Graham and students, Iain, Andrew, Stephen and Jack travelled to France with helprefugees.co.uk. As well as working in the warehouse serving Calais, they spent a day the smaller campsite at Dunkirk which is home to over three hundred Kurdish and Iraqi refugees. Simon reflected on the visit:
“The people we were speaking to in the small camp were teachers, builders, engineers – skilled people. They weren’t heading to the UK just for benefits or for other unwholesome reasons. A lot of the people had been bombed out of their homes and others had left because of religious persecution – people who had converted to Christianity and were being threatened by their own family. They were desperate – desperate enough to risk their lives to get over to England.
“Anybody can go out and work in a warehouse; it’s not difficult and you won’t be directly faced with the hardships of the camp. Anyone can pack a bag of groceries, anyone can chop an onion or put salt into a bag. They are always in need of more volunteers and I would encourage people to do it. It was a real eye–opener and a very humbling experience.”