Western Design Architects’ Phil and Marina set off on a Boxing Day mission from Dorset to Calais to deliver much needed clothing supplies to L’Auberge des Migrants a charity supporting the many hundreds of migrants who sleep rough in Calais after the demise of ‘The Jungle'.
It started with Phil collecting clothes, sleeping bags and rucksacks for Routes to Roots, a charity supporting rough sleepers in Poole and on behalf of other local charities including Bus Shelter Dorset. It became apparent through local charity Blandford CARES that there was an urgent need for bedding and clothing in Calais to support the many hundreds of refugees sleeping rough as a result of the destruction of the Jungle refugee camp.
The decision was fairly last minute and Phil put out the call for donations to help fill the van which was already half full of supplies from Blandford CARES. Friends, family, colleagues and local running clubs rallied round and the van was jammed right up to the roof with warm clothes, rucksacks, socks etc. Some donations were made last minute at the Blandford Christmas Day Parkrun.
Phil and Marina set off on Boxing Day for the Channel Tunnel.
At 9am the next day they were in a circle doing warm up exercises with fellow volunteers prior to a briefing at the charity. There were about 70 volunteers working in a huge warehouse. Half of which seemed to be involved in producing 2,500 meals per day, which were distributed to the refugees under very trying circumstances. The police and CRS make life very difficult.
Meanwhile in the warehouse the van was unloaded and the donations were soon being sorted into their component parts by willing volunteers, the majority of whom were English and French but many who had travelled from great distances, one even travelled from as far as Singapore especially to help in Calais.
Although Phil and Marina had taken plenty, it was only a fraction of the amount required. Clothes become ragged and water logged, sleeping bags are soaking wet with no facilitates to dry them out, refuges suffer with trench foot due to their socks and shoes being constantly soaking wet. The police destroy tents and spray sleeping bags & bedding with CS gas or pepper spray to make them unusable.
During the trip the weather was absolutely vile, the temperature was around 0’c with strong winds and icy rain. Refugees were seen walking around in these awful conditions, just in the clothes they stood up in and literally having to sleep out in the open.
There are far too many individuals to name who made this trip possible but Phil would particularly like to thank Suzi Hearn and the volunteers of Blandford CARES and Duncan Ray of RUN Blandford whose efforts helped to fill the van. Thanks to Western Design Architects for sponsoring the fuel, shuttle and accommodation costs and of course for providing the van.
This was a worthwhile and inspirational way to spend the Christmas break and WDA hope to return in future years.