Eastbourne rallies to help with refugee crisis

Donations at the Secour de Catholique in Calais SUS-150809-110256001
Donations at the Secour de Catholique in Calais SUS-150809-110256001

Groups around Eastbourne have banded together to send help to refugees living in Calais.

Donations of food, clothing and shelter – including a second-hand caravan – are to be sent across to Calais in the coming weeks after an huge rise in the number of donations.

Some of the donations collected by Marcie Clarke SUS-150809-111150001

Some of the donations collected by Marcie Clarke SUS-150809-111150001

A Facebook group, Calais Refugee Support and Donations - Eastbourne, has been established by local residents Sienna Davids and Marcie Clarke to help organise donations from the town.

As well as helping to establish the local group, Marcie has travelled out to Calais several times to help with relief work.

Marcie said, “News is flying around that they are full and asking for no more donations but this is a very short-term storage problem. It is crucial we keep collecting as winter is fast approaching and we need to keep the supply consistent.”

The group has had a huge number of donations from people in Eastbourne and the surrounding area since.

Helen Burton and her caravan. SUS-150809-110820001

Helen Burton and her caravan. SUS-150809-110820001

Local businesses, The Dolphin and Sobriquet Lingerie, both in South Street, have been helping to store the donated goods in their basements.

Rachel Ainsley, landlady of The Dolphin, said the number of donations has been “overwhelming” over the weekend.

Rachel said, “We’ve had four-man tents and all sorts. So many people have got involved and there was a big uptake over Saturday and Sunday. The scale has been overwhelming.”

The group is now hoping to get together a number of volunteers to go out to the Calais camp on September 26.

Staff at B&Q Eastbourne with paint donated to the caravan SUS-150809-110919001

Staff at B&Q Eastbourne with paint donated to the caravan SUS-150809-110919001

More than 100 volunteers are expected to make the journey to help support humanitarian work at the camp.

Elsewhere in the area, a Pevensey Bay councillor is donating a renovated caravan to the Calais camp.

Helen Burton, a parish councillor, is planning to paint and repair her old caravan before donating it to help aid on the other side of the Channel.

Helen said, “We are still finalising the details at the moment. It could be used to house a family or as a distribution centre for food and other donations.

“I was going to sell it but with everything going on in the news, I’d much rather it was used as accommodation or a distribution centre. “It all seems like something has changed in the last week. No matter what your opinions are on migration, people are realising how bad things are.

“I’ve been amazed at the response from people in Eastbourne. I’ve had 10 people offering their help to paint the caravan and I had a guy – a complete stranger – come and help us move the caravan into a place where we could work on it too.”

Helen has also received support from Eastbourne B&Q, which donated more than £120-worth of paint for the project.

The caravan will be towed out to Calais by Dayn Clark of Wot a Waste, an Eastbourne-based waste removal company.

After towing the caravan to Calais, Dayn will stay at the camp to help clear away rubbish.

Helen said, “We also need someone who knows about caravans to check it’s roadworthy. It’s not that old so I expect it will be OK but I wanted to check first.

“I want to go out there and see what they are doing out there for myself.”

One couple from Eastbourne, John Carey and his wife Melanie Torres, recently travelled to the Calais camp with a car full of donations from around the town.

Before making the journey, Melanie and John contacted several volunteer groups working in the camp who put them in touch with Francois and Maya – a French couple who help run the camp’s aid stations.

John said, “I’m very grateful for everybody doing what they can. It’s quite refreshing.”

Since returning from the camp John and Melanie have been giving advice to others planning to travel

John urges anyone planning to take goods over to make contact with groups already helping to organise humanitarian aid in the camp to avoid making aid more difficult.

He said, “One lady – with the best of intentions – went there a few weeks ago with a car full of food. She got people to line up but she only got through around 30 people before she ran out of food. A lot of people were upset and disappointed.”

John said. “Under no circumstances should people just turn up with donations. People need to get in touch with those organising the camp, like Francois and Maya, before going there.

“They know who is most needed in terms of supplies and how to make sure they get it. It is great people are helping but they need to go through the proper channels.”

If you wish to help you can take donations into The Dolphin but be sure to check what goods are needed by searching for Calais Refugee Support & Donation Collection Point, Eastbourne, East Sussex, on Facebook.

Organisers stress the need to check if the donations are needed as some goods can cause difficulties for aid workers.

For more information about donating old caravans search Caravans For Calais - Coordinate & Fundraise on Facebook.

You can also donate by clicking here.

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