26th September 2018
Recently our team conducted a field visit to a warehouse in Calais, where three of our Collective Fund groups run programmes to support refugees within the area. This trip forms part of our commitment to ensuring that all activities carried out under the charity umbrella of Prism comply with UK charity law. This visit is, therefore, not only an opportunity for Prism to monitor operations on the ground, but is also a chance to see first-hand the impact of the projects run by our Collective Funds, as well as the challenges they face daily.
On the 16th of July, Prism’s team visited three of our long-standing Collective Fund groups, Help Refugees, Refugee Community Kitchen and Refugee Youth Service, all operating within L’Auberge des Migrants/Help Refugees warehouse. Each Collective Fund runs its own independent operation which caters to the various needs of refugees in Calais.
Help Refugees CEO, Josie Naughton, guided us throughout our trip to Calais. Josie’s commitment and dedication has helped grow Help Refugees from a simple hashtag on the internet, to a huge humanitarian organisation. To date, Help Refugees have supported over 722,500 individuals, sending 94% of the money they have raised directly towards field operations. As Prism’s largest Collective Fund, Help Refugees, play a very unique role within the refugee crisis. Their primary aim is to respond to the most urgent needs of refugees. Help Refugees do this by either distributing aid on the ground themselves, or by granting out to grassroots organisations that spring up in response to a crisis. They are currently funding 75 projects, including grants to Refugee Community Kitchen and Refugee Youth Service. Refugee Community Kitchen (RCK) have one simple aim, and that is to ‘feed people without judgement’. They have served upwards of 1500 hot meals a day to refugees in the area. Finally, Refugee Youth Service (RYS) are focused on creating safe spaces for children and young people who have been displaced. RYS‘s top priority is ensuring that the rights of displaced children and young adults are protected.
Volunteers making blankets from clothes which cannot be distributed.
Our day started being shown around in the warehouse by Help Refugees team member Josh Hallam. There we saw the volunteers efficiently sorting through clothes, shoes, hygiene kits, blankets and sleeping bags, all to be distributed to those in need. Help Refugees also focus on providing their volunteers with Field Training Sessions, a compulsory process for all volunteers interacting with vulnerable groups. These sessions help to ensure the wellbeing and safety of staff, volunteers and beneficiaries – key values shared by all our groups in Calais.
Refugee Community Kitchen – volunteer cooks in action.
After visiting Help Refugees, we had a delicious vegan curry prepared by the Refugee Community Kitchen (RCK) team. Here we were accompanied by Steve Stavrinides, co-founder of RCK. Steve is an events professional who founded RCK alongside three friends to respond to the immediate need that refugees in Calais had for food. Since the beginning of 2015, with the help of over 30 volunteers, they have prepared over 2.5 million meals, feeding refugees as well as volunteers throughout Calais and Dunkirk. Steve explained that the core mission was not just to provide nourishing food to refugees, but also to do this in a way that respected their dignity. RCK have adjusted their meals selection to fit in with the changing needs that refugees may have during certain religious celebrations throughout the year, thus allowing them to keep their traditions.
Refugee Youth Service office in Calais
Our last meeting was with Amanda Regan from Refugee Youth Service (RYS). Amanda started as a senior member of the Emergency Response Team and is now RYS’s lead project manager in Calais. RYS’s operation in Calais is delivered via their Mobile Youth Centre. This centre serves as a safe space for roughly 140 unaccompanied minors in the area and provides a clinic where RYS can offer legal support and information services on asylum to vulnerable children. In addition, RYS run a number of educational classes available to all children and young adults who attend the youth centre. RYS are able to offer this range of services by having a fulltime social worker and legal caseworker available at the centre. Further to delivering these vital services to unaccompanied minors in Calais, RYS are working towards improving the child protection infrastructure and are encouraging authorities to collaborate in order to help vulnerable children.
We would like to thank our partners on the ground who have delivered their operations with dedication and passion and have made a huge difference to the lives of refugees in Calais.
In Autumn our team is going to visit operations in Greece, watch this space for more updates.