A Citroen Bellingo arrives. It’s full of donations, part of the constant trickle of little vans and cars that arrive at the warehouse. Like the Dunkirk flotilla they cross the channel but this time its not little boats but little cars and hire vehicles. That same spirit that made Britain so great. People practicing random acts of kindness and compassion on their day off.
I help unload a people carrier that has arrived stuffed full of donations. I ask Dave, the driver if he’s been here before. “14 times” he says. “My wife jokingly calls herself a Calais widow. I keep coming back because I am compelled by the story, I cant walk away from it. The first time I came. I was building a makeshift shed at the camp a Syrian man came up and said. My wife is pregnant. Can you help me to build a shelter her. I did what I could and I went to bed that night and felt so satisfied. It was the the most meaningful work I’d done all year, I mean I work in computing. It pays my bills but this is what gives my life the meaning I didn’t know was missing.”
A hire van arrives driven by a well dressed young Muslim man and two friends. “We’re three mates that got together because we wanted to do something to help.” He explains “We sent up an Indigogo page and did a whip round. We’re filming it for you tube so the people who helped can see exactly how and to spread to spend the word.” The operation is super quick and they’re off before I have a chance to ask their names.
A 4×4 arrives pulling a caravan. It is driven by Sandra from Wales who has brought her husband and her three kids. I ask her why she has come. “We usually go on holiday to a little cottage in Wales but when I found out about the children in the camp disappearing I just couldn’t go on holiday. I felt so strongly I needed to do something to help so myself and my husband and our two older boys came here. We didn’t bring our youngest. Not last time anyway.” She laughed. “We didn’t know what the situation was. We didn’t want him disappearing too but it turns out its fine here. Its amazing in fact. Theres here’s a sense of community. It’s a such a rare place.
An ernest gap year student is enthusing about how many new best friends and flapjacks she made today. I feel my jaded, cold heart melt a little more. I can understand why, beyond just the satisfaction of doing something positive that people come here.
I nearly finish editing when I remember I’m meant to meet people from the warehouse in the pub. I pop down to say “Hi” and then explain I’ve got to get back to finish some writing about why people are here. A sharply dressed guy pipes up.” I’ll tell you why I’ m here. I work in advertising. My parents never had much money. My Dad said to me; Why are you wasting your time on refugees, you need to look after yourself first. You’re not far off that yourself.” ” I’m from a working class family. We didn’t have much but there a people here with so much less. Is that the soundbite you’re after?”
The Calais refugee warehouse acts as focus for compassion and it is a distribution point for random acts of kindness. To get involved. Click here.