I came to Calais on October 26 2016 on a 2 day pre-planned recce, hoping to add myself to the volunteers at the ‘Jungle’ camp. But that was the day of the final evictions – about which I’d been warned as a possibility by the ‘Help Refugees’ organisation with whom I’d been in contact.
I spent the following day at the warehouse which was (is) an enormous ’base camp’ where donations were received and sorted; there was also a community kitchen and some sleeping accommodation.
The volunteers at the warehouse, all involved in a variety of tasks, were mostly British, all ages, some were there for only several days, others for weeks, or for months.
Every morning first thing, a group leader would read out a list of tasks allotted for that day and volunteers without an ongoing assignment would choose the one which they wanted to do that day.
I worked alongside other volunteers: we climbed the mountains of donated items previously packed in black bin liners, we unpacked, we sorted out bedding for the many refugees who would be back that night, we repacked.
I was really impressed by the way the warehouse was organised as well as by the dedication, efficiency, community spirit, and cooking skills of the volunteers.
And all this wrapped in good humour.
That evening, replete with images and conversations and emotions from the warehouse, I was back in my room, with pictures of former Hollywood stars on the walls.