I had been listening to a podcast called ‘The Guilty Feminist’ who support Help Refugees, a charity that distributes food and clothing to refugees. So I took myself off to volunteer in Calais during my summer break; I thought I would go and see what I could do. It felt like a rite of passage as it was my first solo trip. It has definitely changed my outlook on life.
The majority of work was organising donations and cooking, things like that. It was amazing to see how they utilise the skills of their volunteers. A woman came to the camp with sewing skills, so she took old tents that the police had knocked down and she taught others how to make sleeping bags out of them.
Visiting the camp was an odd experience, you walk in and see loads of people and kids playing, but you’re not really thinking about their situation, you just get on with your job. In the evenings back at the accommodation, we would discuss what we had seen in the day. Our accommodation wasn’t very comfortable but my experience made me feel incredibly grateful, as it was a lot more comfortable than a tent in the rain.
The refugees are mainly men, because dangerous conditions when travelling mean children either can’t survive the journey or their mothers don’t want to put them through it. A lot of the children you see have often been born en route. That’s their life, they don’t know any different.
It was pretty draining towards the end but I tried not to dwell on the negativity. If you focus on how you would feel in that situation then you can transfer those feelings onto others. I just tried to see everyone as an individual so I could treat them how they want to be treated.