My name is Peter Scatchard, and after travelling to the Jungle refugee camp in Calais recently with a small group of people, I have decided to return to the camp for 6-8 months to help the refugees. When we first arrived I expected to drop off some supplies, hang around a little and be ushered out by experienced aid agencies. But I discovered the opposite - that there was very little agency presence and the wonderful but overwhelmed volunteers on site were struggling to meet the needs of the people. There was no shortage of supplies - enough to fill a giant warehouse, in fact. But help was needed the most - especially with sorting and distributing the vast amounts of donations. So I spent a few days sorting through clothes and shoes, loading and unloading vans, exploring the camp, meeting the fascinating refugees and helping with food and clothing distributions. The conditions are terrible - the refugees primarily live in tents, rather than strong structures, all the roads are muddy, there are only a handful of portaloos, hardly any medical facilities, water supplies that are few and sometimes containing e coli, very little rubbish collection or sanitation and the French riot police routinely are rough with the refugees. Winter is on its way and many of the people, being used to hot climates, are already feeling the cold. There is violence amongst them, yet somehow fiery spirit, greeting me with smiles, handshakes, and sharing drinks and jokes with me over campfires. They have come from Syria, Eritrea, Sudan, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and other countries, and I had an incredible time hearing their stories.
After coordinating with other volunteers I became aware of funding starting for accommodation for the volunteers, and even a few caravans to be donated shortly. Food, also, could be covered by donations. But the one thing that would be unbelievably useful would be a small van. The camp is off a motorway out of Calais (extremely hard to get to on foot) and there are several essential points dotted around - the main warehouse, other warehouses, the camp at Dunkirk, the Eurotunnel, the town centre, wifi spots, the Jules Ferry soup kitchen, the local youth hostel and relevant shops. Without a van, I can be useful, but I would only be able to get anywhere outside the camp by hitching lifts off the other volunteers. But with a small van I can not only be independent, but I become far more of an asset to the team - I can pick up new volunteers, take volunteers and even refugees where they need to go and pick up building and distribution supplies. When I was there, the volunteers with vehicles were the most needed.
I can hopefully find a small van (Citroen Berlingo, Vauxhall Combo 1.7d, Volkswagon Caddy are examples) for around £800-900, and then insurance, tax, repairs, transporting it on the Eurotunnel and several months of fuel would require more. If you give me a donation, even something small, I will be so grateful. And you will be helping me to return to the Jungle with a seriously useful addition to the camp that will enable me to be a strong asset to the team.
If you can't afford it (like me) please pass this on to someone who can - it will really, really, make a difference. Any funds not used on the van will be put towards fuel or tools or food.
Thanks a lot,