Volunteering in Calais with L’Auberge des Migrants International

An Account of my time in Calais with L'Auberge des Migrants, from Boxing Day to 3rd Jan (Moyra Jean). 

A car load of hygiene packs which had been made up in the Greenway Cafe, Matlock, were taken over to the L’Auberge warehouse on Boxing Day along with more sleeping bags. They were unloaded just before dark and put on the ‘received donations’ trolley, and within an hour were loaded into the back of a large van full of other provisions for refugees sleeping out in Paris.

The following day I was asked to work sorting clothes in the warehouse instead of the kitchen, as there was a shortage of volunteers there and big demand. We worked from 9.30 after a briefing from one of the volunteer ‘managers’, until 5.30pm with a break for a wonderful hot lunch cooked in the Calais Kitchens.

On our previous visit the kitchen had been extremely busy cooking for refugees in the Jungle, and organising thousands of dry food packages for distribution there. Since the clearance there has been a merging with SWK Kichenia, a German charity, to form RCK, Refugee Community Kitchen. They provide meals for fifty or so volunteers, as well as supplying hot food to Dunkirk Camp, and to a few smaller camps where refugees were dispersed after the demolition. For a while I did a bit of packing of little bags of salt and sugar, alongside an eighty year old cook from Peebles, and an American Londoner.

The dry food is now distributed through a free shop system so that people can choose what they need.

Back on the endless measuring and sorting of clothes, one of the ‘managers’ came round and gave me a note, explaining that I was to collect items and label the bag for Shelter 175. So, I duly found the requested small and medium hoodies, 2 pots, 2 bowls and 2 spoons and handed them over. They went, along with several similar bags for new arrivals, plus hot food etc, on a van to Dunkirk camp later that afternoon.

We worked together with volunteers from France, Germany, Holland, the US, England and several Scots. One of the longer term volunteers in the kitchen, yet another Scot, from her own pocket, provided breakfast of eggs and black pudding for New Year’s morning! A few volunteers looked a little fragile that morning after the barbeque on the beach for New Years Eve....

The long term volunteers are closely in touch with the other charities working in northern France as well as further afield, so that the warehouse can be really responsive to refugee needs. They are still collecting hygiene kits for men and for women, plus additional men’s deodorant (not aerosol) SNUG packs for Paris, blankets, sleeping bags and small and medium men’s clothing. Head-torches with batteries are also in demand particularly for Paris, and men’s size 42 shoes. And frying pans and basic cooking pans are needed for Dunkirk etc.

L’Auberge is giving up one of its warehouses to save on rent, and that is currently full of carefully sorted clothing for Greece and Syria, as well as the ‘Charity Shop’ of unsuitable donations, soon to be sent off to various vintage markets.

For updated lists of needs either see l’Auberge FaceBook page, or email Calaisdonations@gmail.com which coordinates with the Care for Calais warehouse, or calaiswarehouselogistics@gmail.com or just talk with DRS members at the warehouse on Thursday mornings.