Projects in France

What I felt as Calais burned

By Rowena Harding

I only spent a few days in Calais each time, but what struck me as I walked the camp, alone or with a resident or with a fellow volunteer, was the civility of it.

Yes there were reports of bad people, there always are in a group of 10,000 people but as I was only there a short time, I saw none of this. No one leered at me, jeered at me, hassled me or begged. No one demanded, shouted or made me feel uncomfortable. I didn’t get that on my walk to work this morning or even on my jog this evening.

What I got instead was offers of tea, coffee, warm milk, food, a chat, a tour, someone to make sure I was safe, not lost, a story, a photo of a child, a drawing.

Journey of HANDS International Vaccination Centre in Jungle Calais

An Account of a Jungle Volunteer

Some words from one of our volunteers who went to the 'Jungle' in Calais & Dunkirk.

"More people would skip past a reminder of humanity than a photo of Kim Kardashian changing her hairstyle. 

I know people don't like seeing people in pain, therefore I won't put one of those guilt tripping photos of a child escaping a bomb blast in Syria, or a man screaming whilst being crushed by a building. But I will tell you that it has been 5 YEARS that this has been going on.

Getting money to go straight to the suffering people has been deemed almost impossible, although we are still trying our best. However I went to the refugee camps in Calais and Dunkirk in France, and was so shocked by the living conditions even the people who think they have escaped face. This was one of the better camps where they at least had a plastic tent to cover them although they still slept in a swamp. Kids were running around this barefoot - I was wearing at least 7 layers and was still FREEZING. 

I know everyone says 'I can't afford anything', but do you not still have bed-covers at night? Do you not have a coat for when it's slightly cold? But these people don't even have a mat to cover the mud they sleep on. These people don't have any defence against any kind of disease. Hands International is a Non-Profit organisation trying so hard to make a difference, it's a registered, tax exempt charity working alongside MCEC Palmers Green Mosque who funded the project - this is also a registered charity. Thanks to them both, 4,028 residents of these camps have been vaccinated so far. 

Andrew Slaughter Visits 'The Jungle'

This is Andrew Slaughter, UK's shadow Human Rights minister's piece on his visit to refugee camp 'The Jungle' in Calais, France. He writes:

"I wore boots as instructed by my hosts from medical charity Hands International, but the mud was soon coming over them.

I understood why many of the volunteers, like Martin McTigue, a senior manager with the London Ambulance Service who had driven us to ‘the Jungle’, were wearing wellies. But I noticed some of the refugees wearing trainers, crocs or flip flops.

The mud dominates life in the Jungle, a refugee camp that the French authorities do not recognise as such. On the day I visited, rain alternated with sunshine, the weather was mild for December but a strong wind created a chill and battered the tents where most live

Fire in refugee camp 'The Jungle'

So, where to start. On the night of Friday 13th November 2015, we were going to bed in Calais town when we received a phone call telling us there was a huge fire in 'The Jungle' and that we needed to go back and help unknown number of casualties. When we got there we couldn't get to the affected area of the camp as the police were blocking access but we could see a lot of thick smoke and there were many people waiting on the road as the fire service arrived. It was very windy which luckily was blowing the smoke away from the rest of the camp; it was probably a factor in the spread of the fire, over, 2500 sq m which is what the press is reporting. The fire service struggled to contain the fire but eventually it was put out using Police water cannons. 

HANDS International Team in 'The Jungle' Refugee Camp Calais

HANDS International team, supported by MCEC, were in 'The Jungle' refugee camp, Calais yesterday doing some last minute planning and preparation before we get going.

We are to inoculate against the influenza / flu virus to protect against an epidemic which, under the circumstances of the camp, would almost definitely prove to be fatal for many.

It costs approximately £10 to vaccinate one person (vaccine + consumables) so we need your help. There is an estimated 6000 refugees living on site with numbers expected to rise.

Urgent Action Needed: Report on Calais Refugee Camp Needs Assessment

HANDS International and MCEC Team Uncovers Dire Conditions

A joint team from HANDS International and MCEC, along with 15 dedicated volunteers, recently traveled to Calais, France, to assess the critical needs of refugees residing in the informal camp there.

This assessment aimed to gain a deeper understanding of the humanitarian situation and guide relief efforts, particularly as winter approaches.  The findings highlight a desperate situation that requires immediate international attention.

Key Objectives: