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Shelford refugee camp visit

Don’t Feel Helpless and Hopeless About the Refugees in Calais! 

by Bridget Sumsion 


Through a local and extremely well run charity, Cambridge4Calais, I volunteered to travel to France and help the refugees. I would definitely recommend it. 


Cambridge4Calais make it all very simple. They teamed me up with two other volunteers, one of whom was to drive us in his car. We left Cambridge at 5.30pm on Friday 22nd January travellingvia the Eurotunnel, spent a night in a clean, inexpensive hotel and a day working in the warehouse supplying the Calais refugee camp. We returned to Cambridge the following evening. 


In the warehouse, I was sorting clothes and making up individual wash/hygiene bags. It was cold, repetitive work, made enjoyable by the warm, friendly atmosphere of the place. We had regular tea breaks and a most delicious, generous, hot lunch. I didn’t go into the camp itself: access was restricted to those with specific jobs, out of respect for the privacy of the refugees. 


I shall never forget Hettythe truly inspirational twenty-three year old, who had been helping there for four months, and who welcomed us and explained things. We numbered maybe a hundred, mainly British, some Irish, some French. Our backgrounds were varied, but we shared a belief that people like us – through no fault of their own – had wound up in horrendous situation and needed practical and immediate help.I believe that if things had worked out differently 70 years ago it could be me, my sons, my mum, my friends, you and your family, living in a tent in the middle of winter, wearing warm second-hand clothing, possibly no shoes, only sandals , having 1 hot meal a day, having no proper toilets, no hot water, maybe not speaking any french or english ,having fled from atrocities, too horrific to contemplate, leaving well paid jobs, families, schools, your whole life really.  


If you’d like to do what I did, it isn’complicated or costly. I paid £10 petrol money and £22.86 for my bed and breakfast. Cambridge4Calais arranged everything and paid my Eurostar fare. I took €35 contingency money, but brought it all back! 

More importantly, I brought back a conviction that I and my two Cambridge companions had done something deeply worthwhile. All three of us hope to return in March. 

Bridget Sumsion