Last month Emmaus Lambeth organised a trip to Calais, in order to meet and volunteer with Help Refugees. The group was made up of staff, Companions and volunteers.

Help Refugees run the biggest aid operation in Northern France. Although Calais and Dunkirk have slipped from the news agenda, since the closure of the Jungle camp in late 2016, Help Refugees estimates that almost 2,000 people are living in forests, parks or on the streets in Northern France. 1,300 people are living in Grande-Synthe (Dunkirk) without shelter (predominantly parks and streets), and likewise in Calais, around 500 people are sleeping in the forests. Help Refugees distributes thousands of items every week, from blankets, sleeping bags, hygiene kits, clothing and countless amounts of footwear. In addition, they organise a very large food and firewood distribution operation.

On our trip, we undertook various volunteering duties at the Help Refugees warehouses ranging from food prep in the Refugee Community Kitchen to chopping wood in their wood yard. Three of our group were able to go out on food and wood distribution. We had a meeting with Maddy Allen (Field Manager – Help Refugees Northern France), to discuss an ongoing partnership with them and ourselves.  We have now become a designated drop-off point for Help Refugees at our shops in Brixton, West Norwood, Wallington, Purley and Caterham. For details of what donations are currently needed, please check on the Help Refugees link below:-

Please clearly mark any donations “Help Refugees Calais” when dropping them off at our shops.

We will be making a day trip to Calais with these collected donations each month, using one of the vans from our fleet.

Solidarity is one of the founding principles of the Emmaus movement, going back to the words of our founder Abbe Pierre – “Serve first, those who suffer most.” We are very pleased to be part of this initiative with Help Refugees, and will be making additional volunteer trips later in the year.