So it’s a couple of weeks later and we’ve all calmed down a bit (hopefully)
I spent a weekend in Calais with Katharine from Crew for Calais and our current volunteer out there Nell who has been doing an amazing job helping to organise and manage the Calais wood yard, distributing firewood to the camp so that thousands of refugees can cook for themselves; a vital part of normalising the experience they have. In a set of conditions that are still very challenging and deeply unpleasant these opportunities to interact according to your own wants and desires are so important.
Whilst we were out there I had a chance to touch base with the ‘on-the-ground’ team from Help Refugees, find out what has changed, what they are planning to do going forward, what they think will happen next and generally discuss with them how best Crew for Calais volunteers can help support their work out on the camps. Katharine and I had some really positive conversations and hopefully you’ll hear more about how we hope to continue the partnership between CfC and Help Refugees over the next few weeks. Ultimately it was a really important opportunity for us to remind ourselves of all the tough work that is still being done on the ground, and to remind ourselves that the problem hasn’t gone away, and that the media’s focus on the domestic pantomime politics mustn’t allow us to reduce ourselves to naval gazing.
It’s more important than ever that we come together to do the most we can to support the refugees on our doorstep who are still living in appalling conditions and requiring constant support to ensure that their most basic human needs are met.
You may have already seen one of our call out videos that we recorded out there. Part of our conversations was to think (from our experience and opinion) how best the skills of the performing arts community can feed into the work out in France. Expect to see a few more videos coming out over the next week or so.
Last week I gave you a provocation at the end of my piece. Asking people to think about how they might be able to support refugee and asylum services in the UK. It’s certainly an area that I find myself thinking about regularly. As a former venue programme manager I worked hard to make connections with organisations in my town and have supported Refugee Week activities for the last 3 years. Each year I see more individuals and organisations coming on board to help raise money and awareness of refugee issues. It’s so important that alongside the difficult and time consuming work of supporting humanitarian efforts over the channel we make time to have those simple conversations with our friends and neighbours that start to challenge the overriding narrative of fear and misinformation that pervades our national dialogue.
If you’ve been out to Calais with CfC and can give an hour from your life to go to speak to a church group, or a school or any gathering where a personal approach might help to come mind then please do so. Similarly, if you haven’t been out to the camps and you know of any opportunity then why not get in contact with us as we may have people nearby who would be able to bring their personal experiences and stories to those events and communities