The unfolding events in Ukraine have again highlighted the tragic circumstances that lead so many desperate people to leave their homes and travel across the world to find a new home – sometimes for a temporary period, but often for ever.
For some time I have been involved with Care4Calais, a volunteer-run charity working with refugees in the UK, France and Belgium. It’s just one of many charities that deliver essential aid and support to refugees living in the UK and our next big challenge is likely to be providing assistance to those fleeing the war in Ukraine.
Many refugees arrive with only what they stand up in. Frequently their most valuable possession is a precious mobile phone which provides their sole link with family and friends elsewhere in the world. Currently the majority of refugees we meet come from Afghanistan, Sudan, Eritrea, Iran and Syria and they are often fleeing dangerous situations, such as conflict, religious persecution or trafficking. Some are visibly traumatised by their experiences and the focus for us is to provide warm clothing, bedding, food and medical assistance to people in desperate need.
When refugees first arrive in the UK it can be bewildering for them. Navigating a new country and a foreign language is a big challenge, made worse if you have no money and are scared and alone. As a volunteer I meet up regularly with a group of refugee women and children to provide a friendly face and helping hand. We collect and distribute clothes, shoes, mobile phones and other essentials. At Christmas we provided a wrapped gift for every woman and child to ensure they felt part of the festivities. Our volunteers also help them to access services such as healthcare, English lessons or public transport and we even have an amazing 13 year old volunteer who fixes mobile phones.
If you would like more information or to help by donating clothes or mobile phones please go to the care4calais drop off map and click on the pin nearest to you for contact details: care4calais.org/thedropoffmap
Lynda Brennan, MyGMPD Manager