Calais, overlooking the Straits of Dover, is a major port in northern France. Migrants from impoverished backgrounds, looking for a better life in the United Kingdom and other parts of Europe, formed a refugee camp outside the city in 2015. The “village” provided protection to nearly 8,000 refugees before it was demolished by the police. Today, the area shelters about 700 refugees, with an additional 400 refugees situated in nearby Dunkirk. Living conditions in the camp have been described as a ‘living hell’ by the U.N. Human Rights Watch. The refugees usually sleep in the woods or in the open air, with a few lucky ones finding shelter in tents. Plastic is burnt for much-needed heat – forcing nearby people to breathe polluted and toxic air.
SSIO volunteers from the Netherlands, deeply moved by the plight of the refugees, have served them with love and compassion over the last four years. During 2018, the volunteers distributed clothes, food and hygiene products and also delivered tents to the displaced refugees. Donated goods were unpacked in a large storage facility, sorted into smaller packages and then distributed to the refugees. If a kitchen was available, meals were prepared and served twice daily to the refugees. The volunteers also cut wood and delivered firewood to the refugees for warmth during the cold weather. SSIO volunteers felt gratified to have the opportunity to alleviate the suffering of the refugees and make their lives more bearable.