salford to calais 11

Date published: November 03, 2015

Salford to Calais: In our own words

Shareen Denman, a Social Work student, recently asked for your help to support her inspiring project Salford to Calais. Your help was overwhelming and you managed to raise nearly £600 towards for the project at an Atmosphere fundraiser.

Your funds recently helped Shareen travel to Calais and deliver aid to the refugees. Here's a blog from Shareen about what she found when they got there: 

We did it! We planned it, we organised it, and we got it spot on. But not in a million years could we have imagined what we would find there.

When we arrived at the camp it was heartbreaking! The first person we came across was Mimi - a heavily pregnant Syrian lady who was just desperate for a drink of water. We gave her water, and during a brief chat she explained how she had lost her family and was in the camp alone waiting to have her baby. We stood in the cold and rain whilst chatting and Mimi was more concerned about us getting wet and cold than she was about herself. 

These people are poor and desperate beyond our imagination. The camp is squalid. It is wet, muddy and very dirty. It’s built on a flood plane, which obviously causes problems. It is crowded and extremely busy. There are unaccompanied children running around seeking whatever attention they can get from the adults. Adults who are trying to take care of them in the appalling conditions, conditions we would not allow our pet dogs to reside in.  

The people are trying to make the best of a bad situation. The refugees have set-up Mosques and Churches in tents. Despite the awful experiences these people have been through, they are not giving up. They are doing their best and they are admirable. 

Many adults have scarred hands where they have attempted to climb the fences. Calais – the port and the terminal looks like a high security prison. There is barbed wire in every direction. A 14-year-old boy told us he had lost all his family but he knew of an uncle in the U.K. He said he had tried time and time again to get across, he said he would rather die trying, and he won’t give up.  

We made a trip to the warehouse to swap some of our aid for items that needed distributing urgently. The warehouse was chaotic and disorganised, but it’s to be expected.

We offloaded some of our aid and refilled with essential food parcels and toiletry packs we had made. We went back to the camp and distributed these to individuals. The items were well received. Everyone was grateful – the people looked us in the eyes and were sincerely thankful. As well as thankful, the people we met were incredibly polite, warming and welcoming. They were particularly happy to receive hand-written letters from pupils at Stretford High School. These letters genuinely appeared to make their day. 

salford to calais 1We spent time with as many refugees as we could – we wanted to ensure some kind of personal approach, I think we achieved that. We listened, we laughed, and we joked. We comforted people and answered as many questions as we could. We did our best. Thank you to everyone who supported us, whether that was with money, time or aid we absolutely made a difference – you made a difference.        

The things we saw and experienced during our time in the camp will stay with us for life, and we are already compelled to go back – there is so much more to do. This is just the start.

This means we need to continue, you, me, all of us together. We’re going to spend the next few weeks doing more research, establishing more links, making plans etc. We will be back in touch very soon to share how you can help. Please stay with us – get in touch if you can help, and share what we are doing.

There are far too many of you to thank but you all know who you are. This could not have been achieved without all of you. Please stay with us we are going to need you again. Love to you all.

Shareen Denman

Level 5 student, School: Nursing, Midwifery, and Social Work & Social Sciences.

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