I arrive at Calais on the Eurostar from St Pancras, to be met by a volunteer Karen who drives me to the warehouses where the donated goods from all over the UK are stored in containers, crates and boxes – to be sorted ready for distribution to the estimated 4,500 migrants currently in the camp which is miles away.
I meet Clare the committed founder and Director of Care4Calais who has now been working here almost non-stop for nine months. She is a dedicated humanitarian who has recognised the needs of these people who have fled conflict and oppression of all kinds and almost singlehandedly has met those needs by attracting volunteers and goods to the camp.
I am struck by the ten volunteers: young women and men and all British and ethnically diverse who are beavering away in the warehouse with humour and dedication, sorting the footwear from containers into boxes on which are scribbled “boots size 38”, “trainers size 40” etc. If they are of poor quality they are rejected and returned to UK for other charities.
After being given a few words of instruction by Joan, I lend a hand with the sorting of jumpers into sizes and hoodies (especially welcomed by the migrants) or non-hoodies. Joan is a young nurse who works in prisons in Leicester and has come out for six days.
We stop for coffee cooked over a small primus stove and sit in the sun between the warehouses before knocking off at 6.00 pm and driving to the small hotel in the centre of Calais, home for the next ten days, and across the road to a pizzeria for supper and a vin ordinaire. What will the morrow bring?