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Guardian article on Susan Sarandon’s Christmas visit to Lesbos

The wonderful Susan Sarandon spent her Christmas break in Lesbos, meeting refugees and meeting many volunteers and organisations working on the island. One of the people she spent time with was Dr Linda, a wonderful medic Help Refugees has been proud to to support.

From the Guardian

Susan Sarandon’s Christmas with refugees: ‘I want to humanise the issue’

“I wanted to learn from the refugees, take their stories and somehow put them on the internet,” Sarandon told the Guardian (she wrote for the Huffington Post andRYOT from the Moria and Kara Tepe refugee camps in Lesbos). “My main goal was to humanise the issue and have them be real people, not politicise it.”

The call to action was born out of frustration from the dialogue in the US. “It seemed like people who had the loudest voices were the most xenophobic and un-American,” said Sarandon, a Unicef goodwill ambassador.

Please click here to read the rest of the article.


We would not be able to do our work without your support and kindness. Many of the refugees we help are fleeing the conflict zones of Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan. Others are trying to escape political oppression in countries like Eritrea. All are human beings like us. As well as providing immediate physical assistance, we want to help refugees maintain their dignity.

Please click through if you would like to find out more about our work. If you would like to know how you can help refugees, please check out our Get Involved section where you can find out how to fundraise for us and how to make a donation. Thank you!

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Help Refugees’ Annie meets MP Andy Slaughter in the Jungle, Calais

An update from volunteer Annie in the Jungle, Calais –

On Monday, Martin McTigue and Avigayil Ifan of HANDS International who run the Jungle’s Vaccination Centre introduced me to Andy Slaughter, the Shadow Human Rights Minister, so that he could be made aware of the conditions in camp and the wider human rights context around them.
I was privileged and absolutely overjoyed to see how curious and receptive he was to know about people’s lives, their past, how they got to Calais, how they live now and their hopes and dreams for the future. He was beyond impressed at the incredibly dedicated, hard working and selfless volunteers working with L’Auberge des Migrants and Help Refugees – and so he should be, you’re all amazing!

Please read below his touching account of the visit! And who knows, maybe we’ll soon have a full collection of Shadow Cabinet visits!

Love and solidarity,

Annie

Annie, Andy Slaughter and others at the Jungle in Calais

Annie, Andy Slaughter and others outside the Hands International Vaccination Centre
in the Jungle, Calais. Image via Andy Slaughter’s Facebook.
From MP Andy Slaughter via Facebook.

I wore boots as instructed by my hosts from medical charity Hands International, but the mud was soon coming over them.

I understood why many of the volunteers, like Martin McTigue, a senior manager with the London Ambulance Service who had driven us to ‘the Jungle’, were wearing wellies. But I noticed some of the refugees wearing trainers, crocs or flip flops.

The mud dominates life in the Jungle, a refugee camp that the French authorities do not recognise as such. On the day I visited, rain alternated with sunshine, the weather was mild for December but a strong wind created a chill and battered the tents where most live.

The Jungle sprawls out from under a motorway bridge just outside Calais, home to some 6,000 people at present. It is flanked by two chemical plants pumping out noxious-looking clouds, the source many believe of ‘Jungle lung’, the cough and sore throat most have had since arriving. The camp itself is on an old landfill site, waterlogged, full of junk, some just unsightly, some, like asbestos panels, dangerous.

Until very recently there was no sanitation, and three cold-water standpipes for everyone. Because the French Government regards this as a border control not a humanitarian issue, it would not provide facilities nor allow the UN or major charities like Oxfam to do so.

Instead there are smaller charities like Hands International, (who set up an immunisation clinic in October and have vaccinated 40% of residents against this year’s ‘flu strain), Medecins sans Frontieres and L’Auberge des Migrants, which supplies both clothes and wooden shelters for the most vulnerable.

MSF took the French Government to court and won. Now the Regional Government (which almost fell to the Front National this month) has been forced to provide heated tents for families and better sanitation and water supply, though while we saw this work in progress it looks unlikely to be ready by the planned date of 13 January, and will only house 1500 people.

The French state provides little by way of security nor humanitarian assistance in the camp. A 15- year-old boy was stabbed to death this month but there has been little evidence of an investigation into his death. Relief is provided by the volunteers.

Martin was introduced to the Jungle by an LAS colleague Sam Billoo, whose father founded Hands International in 1979 to bring help to isolated villages in Pakistan. He probably never thought their services would be needed in northern France, but Martin and Sam have recruited a number of LAS paramedics who give up their weekends and leave to provide essential medical care.

Meanwhile, the riot police sit in vans at entrances to the site or block these off. At least twice a week, I was told, tear gas is fired into the camp, usually to coincide with demonstrations by the Front National and other extreme right-wing groups who shout abuse at the refugees. From the camp it looks as though the police are there to protect the fascists.

It is difficult to describe either the appalling conditions in the camp or the positive spirit among the people who live there. Seeing both together is an incredible experience.

There are several hundred children without parents in the camp, some as young as 12 or 14. There are over 200 families. Most are from Syria, Afghanistan, Eritrea, Sudan or Kurdistan. All seem to be fleeing persecution, but without a proper asylum process it is difficult to tell.

They live in ragged tents or plywood huts (no substantial structures are allowed by the authorities). Often these are next to overflowing toilets or are permanently soaked in mud. There are a few cold standpipes for washing or cleaning. Cooking is over open fires next to the tents or on primus stoves, which is why fires are common. One recently wiped out a whole section of the camp, though fortunately there were only minor casualties.

But there is a church, a library, language classes, restaurants and shops in shacks and huts. There is the Good Chance Theatre and just outside the camp is the warehouse where donations of everything from clothes and toiletries to tents and sleeping bags are taken. Often people spontaneously drive over from the UK with a carload.

The generosity is appreciated but I would urge anyone planning to go, recently to email first to see what it needed and how to sort it. Wedding dresses and high-heeled shoes (really?) or extra-large clothes for the undernourished refugees may not fit the bill but some have been donated anyway. Last month Rev Bob Mayo and St Stephen’s Church in Uxbridge Road took a whole truckload of valuable supplies to the camp.

The generosity of spirit shown to us by the refugees was humbling. It is what keeps the volunteers coming back week after week or in some cases living here permanently.

But this is not a situation that should occur anywhere, let alone 30 miles from the UK. And it should be resolved by the French and other European governments, including our own. From what I saw and was told the treatment of refugees in the Jungle may breach the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child and fails to comply with the latest version of the Dublin Convention on the treatment of asylum seekers (Dublin III).

Many of the refugees would like to come to the UK, but that is because for many their nearest relatives are here. For families and children with such links we should provide an opportunity to apply for asylum without risking their lives stowing in lorries or jumping on trains.

Generally, given the treatment they have received from the French authorities, people in the Jungle are suspicious of them, but still some would like to apply for asylum in France, others in Germany or other EU countries.

Some may turn out to be economic migrants and not fleeing persecution. But at the moment no one is going anywhere. As winter proper approaches, pregnant women, young children without families and many people who would offer a great deal to host countries are living in intolerable conditions, ignored.

I met lawyers, engineers, and a former interpreter for UK forces in Afghanistan among the camp-dwellers.

This is not in truth a refugee camp, so much does it lack the basics of life. It is a stain on the French state, but it is not a problem of which we can wash our hands. The majority of the volunteers and donors are from the UK. That is to our country’s credit. Our Government has contributed nothing but the money to build a razor-wire fence between the camp and the Eurotunnel entrance. This is to their shame.


We would not be able to do our work without your support and kindness. Many of the refugees we help are fleeing the conflict zones of Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan. Others are trying to escape political oppression in countries like Eritrea. All are human beings like us. As well as providing immediate physical assistance, we want to help refugees maintain their dignity.

Please click through if you would like to find out more about our work. If you would like to know how you can help refugees, please check out our Get Involved section where you can find out how to fundraise for us and how to make a donation. Thank you!

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The Compassion Collective – 48 hours to raise one million dollars to aid refugees

The amazing Compassion Collective has launched today with a 48 hour challenge to raise raise one million dollars to aid refugees. To learn more about this wonderful initiative set up by Elizabeth GilbertRob BellCheryl StrayedBrené Brown and Glennon Doyle Melton please click through here. The money they raise will be split between Help Refugees and Together Rising.

We Stand With Love

We have a plan. You are a part of it.

Today’s refugee crisis is the worst humanitarian emergency the world has seen since World War II. Just as the Greatest Generation’s response to the holocaust defined them, so will our response define us.

We want to be remembered as the generation that chose Love over Fear.

As you read this, thousands are fleeing terror and war – forced from their homes into tiny boats with nothing but the clothes on their backs and the children in their arms. They will cross the sea, walk for days, holding tight to their families and their hope for safety and a future.

This moment in time is asking us a critical question. How will we respond? Let us answer: with compassion.

Compassion will guide us. Compassion is humanity’s North Star. It will always guide us out of the dark, back toward peace, hope and each other.

Today’s Questions:

  • Should starving women be fed?
  • Should homeless babies be sheltered?
  • Should freezing men be warmed?
  • Should drowning children be saved?

If your heart says YES: Join us.

Join us in a circle of humanity standing shoulder to shoulder, together saying:

In a fearful world, I stand with love.

WE ARE THE COMPASSION COLLECTIVE.

Our symbol is the compass. We vow to let compassion guide us, one step at a time.


How to get involved

ONE: GIVE.

Our goal is to raise one million dollars to feed, clothe, shelter, and save our refugee brothers and sisters. Please click here to give now.

The maximum donation is $25. Donations of $5, $10 or $15 dollars will change the world. Look at what these small gifts with great love have already done. We’ve only just begun, and every penny we receive will go directly to refugee aid.

TWO: JOIN.

We are determined to find our compassion tribe, our love army, the rest of our collective.

ARE YOU ONE OF US? STAND WITH US.

Tell us and the world who you are by clicking here to add an overlay to your profile picture. We will be stronger together. You will make your friends braver by showing up. Compassion shows up and shows itself so others might be brave to do the same.

THREE: SHARE.

Please share this post everywhere on earth.

 

Share the Compassion Collective on Facebook now!

facebook-share

Tweet this: I am The Compassion Collective. I Stand With Love. Will You Stand With Me? http://ctt.ec/4iJey+ #IStandWithLove #TheCompassionCollective

Tweet: I am The Compassion Collective. I Stand With Love. Will You Stand With Me? http://ctt.ec/4iJey+ #IStandWithLove #TheCompassionCollective

To visit the Compassion Collective and to learn more about their goal, please click through here

We would not be able to do our work without your support and kindness. Please click through if you would like to find out more about our work. If you would like to know how you can help refugees, please check out our Get Involved section where you can find out how to fundraise for us and how to make a donation. Thank you!

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Calais Needs: Items needed as of Monday 21st December

This week’s list of items needed in Calais by our amazing volunteers, updated Monday 21st December 2015.

If you wish to donate goods, please email Annie on calaisdonations@gmail.com at least one week before you plan to set off. This will help Annie and our other warehouse volunteers to organise the warehouse and plan for the distribution of goods.

Delivery slots on December 27th and 28th are FULL UP. If anyone is planning to bring donations in the next little while, January is looking a bit bleak – dates from the 29th of December onwards would also be good. Email Annie to find out more about donation dates!


The items at the top of the list are needed urgently.

  • Food: we now have a food parcel making station, so please bring:
    • 1l oil
    • 1kg rice
    • 1kg sugar
    • tinned fish (tuna, sardines, mackerel)
    • biscuit packets
    • tinned goods (tomatoes, chickpeas, kidney beans)
    • tea and coffee
    • 750g salt
    • tinned fruit and veg
    • vegetable stock cubes
    • 1l UHT milk

Please bring ring pull tops and make sure everything is IN date!

  • Building materials – especially pallets!! (if you are bringing any or have any building skills you’d like to put to good use, please email calaisbuild@gmail.com)
  • Blankets !!
  • Sleeping bags
  • Tents ( 4 man tents or larger)
  • Waterproof warm winter coats and waterproof trousers
  • Tarpaulins
  • Camp mats
  • Firewood
  • Fire Extinguishers
  • Wind up/ solar torches and lanterns

 

Clothing:

All

  • Socks and Underwear (men’s, women’s and children’s)
  • Goody bags of hats, gloves and scarves

Men

  • Waterproof walking boots high ankle or trainers size especially sizes 42 and 43
  • Small trousers (size 28 and 30)
  • Waterproof trousers
  • S + M tracksuit bottoms
  • S long-sleeved tops, jumpers and hoodies

Women

  • Boots/ shoes up to size 39.  No heels!
  • Smaller cup size bras (up to 36C)
  • Warm, Waterproof coats (S + M)
  • Waterproof trousers
  • Trousers (S, M, L) – jeans and tracksuit bottoms
  • Long-sleeved tops, jumpers and hoodies (S + M)

 

Other:

  • Flat pack cardboard boxes (size 60 x 40 x 32.5 or 90 x 60 x 48)
  • Hygiene items: deodorant, baby wipes, shampoo, shaving cream, tissues

 

HOW TO ORGANISE GOODS

Try to concentrate on one or two items as a large amount of one item is much quicker and easier to distribute than a mixed load of many items.

It is very important that goods are clean, pre-sorted and clearly labelled e.g. a box of walking boots size 44, a bag of men’s jeans size 32, or pre-packaged food parcels.

If you want to be a real star then the best box sizes are 60 x 40 x 32.5 or 90 x 60 x 48

HOW TO DONATE

To deliver aid to the warehouse and/or to arrange distribution in the camp with the support of experienced volunteers, please complete this form

If you have any questions, please email calaisdonations@gmail.com


CLICK AND DONATE FOR DELIVERY STRAIGHT TO CALAIS

The wonderful people at Leisure Fayre have made it super easy to get these urgently needed items directly to Calais. Calais urgently needs sleeping bags and blankets.

Go to LesiureFayre, click on the Help Refugees logo to get to our specially selected list of most needed items and make your selection. To get 20% discount and free delivery to Calais, use the login and password provided on the checkout page.

Many thanks to Leisure Fayre for being so kind!

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Update from Calais – thank you for your response to Annie’s appeal!

Last week, we shared an urgent appeal from our volunteer Annie in Calais. Here is an update from our team at the Calais warehouse –

In response to the appeal made by the wonderful Annie, I would like to say a massive thank you to everyone who heard our call. Your generosity and kindness will ensure that those living in the camp are warm during the cold period we are currently experiencing. It won’t solve the current crisis we are in but it will make a massive difference to those currently living in this vulnerable and fragile situation. Thanks to all of you from all of us.

If you’d like to continue to support the work L’Auberge & Help Refugees do in Calais please keep donating here https://mydonate.bt.com/charities/helprefugees

Here is just some of the blankets, sleeping bags and bedding you bought!
Annie appeal response - Copy

Thank you!!!


We would not be able to do our work without your support and kindness. Please click through if you would like to find out more about our work. If you would like to know how you can help refugees, please check out our Get Involved section where you can find out how to fundraise for us and how to make a donation. Thank you!

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Josie on Glamour Magazine site – ‘How you can help the refugees this Christmas’

Josie – one of the founders of Help Refugees – wrote this recent article for Glamour Magazine. Click here to view it on the Glamour website. 

How you can help the refugees this Christmas

Google’s end of 2015 report has revealed that the number one question we all put in to our search engine this year was ‘How can I help the refugees?’ Well the year’s not over – there’s still time – and Christmas is a time for giving, let’s not forget.

Josie Naughton, the Founder of Help Refugees has revealed to GLAMOUR how her trip to Calais has changed her life forever and why we should get involved with the #warmwishes campaign.

Over to you, Josie…

I first went to the refugee camp in Calais or ‘The Jungle’ as it is otherwise known back in September and it’s next to impossible to not sound overly dramatic when describing the effect it had on me so I’ll just go right ahead – I don’t think I will ever see the world in the same way again.

Every night since that day I look outside the window before I go to sleep I and think of the wonderful men women and children I have met there and the thousands more like them facing the same struggles throughout Europe.

I imagine how cold they must be, sleeping in tents or make-shift shelters, how afraid they must be not knowing where their next meal will come from and how unsafe they must feel knowing they have no place to call home. There has been more than one occasion where upon hearing the wind and rain banging against my bedroom window it’s been all I could do to not cry myself to sleep.

Half an hour on the train from Folkstone over 6,000 people are living in conditions I couldn’t have imagined. I would have assumed in a humanitarian crisis like this, governments and the large charities I have so often donated to would be there providing aid and some sort of order. I was wrong. Were it not for the amazing volunteers working day and night on the ground I don’t know what fate these refugees would be facing.

Having been in the camp no longer then an hour I was introduced to a 4-year-old girl from Afghanistan and her father. He was forced to leave after being threatened by the Taliban for speaking English, as for the whereabouts of her mother I was told not to ask. The two of them were living in a tent… not a good tent, a two man pop up tent you would see at a festival and it was pitched in the mud. The temperature in Calais can reach well below freezing and it’s not unheard of to have wind speeds of up to 20mph. I’m almost certain such tents are not built for these kinds of conditions. Bahar and her father had just come back from a trip to the bathroom, a bathroom which was in fact a near by bush. ‘The Jungle’ is no place for a 4-year-old child. And yet that is her home. I still find it hard to understand how we can let that happen.

Whilst we might not be able to solve all the worlds political problems, stop wars, or open borders – we can help People like Bahar and her father all over Europe keep warm this winter.

This festive season Help Refugees have launched a ‘warm wishes’ campaign, inviting you to give the gift of warmth to someone who has nothing. By clicking here you can buy a sleeping bag, a coat or a tent for a refugee this Christmas and you’ll receive a hand designed Christmas e-card. Perhaps you could buy the gift on behalf of a loved one or ask a loved one to buy it for you instead of your usual socks and bath bomb.

Please do help us spread the word and encourage others to do the same using #warmwishes on social media.

You can also donate here to contribute to the vital work Help Refugees does including building shelters.


We would not be able to do our work without your support and kindness. Please click through if you would like to find out more about our work. If you would like to know how you can help refugees, please check out our Get Involved section where you can find out how to fundraise for us and how to make a donation. Thank you!

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Skipchen hard at work in Lesbos – funded by YOUR donations!

The lovely people of Skipchen have shared this video of their field kitchen in Lesbos in action. Thanks to your donations, they are able to feed hundreds of refugees each day as they arrive cold and wet from their dangerous sea voyage.

Many refugees landing in Lesbos are fleeing conflict and violence in Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq. Your donations are making a crucial difference to their lives and we wouldn’t be able to fund projects like the Skipchen field kitchen without your help. Thank you!

The Skipchen Service Shuffle

Learn the Skipchen Service Shuffle from your instructors: Sam 'Sugar Plum' Joseph, Rob 'Twinkle Toes' Weinstock, Sigy 'Smooth Moves' Pearce, Tom 'Jazzercise' Joseph, and Julia 'The Dancing Queen' Shirley-Quirk.Make the coffee hotGet the spices outPut the corgettes in and stir the pot aboutDo the Skipchen ShuffleAnd turn the music upThat's what it's all about!Want to learn more? More information on specific roles are found here https://thebristolskipchen.wordpress.com/…/our-world-needs…/Send your cv's and/or interest over to BristolSkipchen@gmail.com by the 28th.https://thebristolskipchen.wordpress.com/2015/12/18/our-world-needs-you/

Posted by The Bristol Skipchen on Sunday, 20 December 2015


We would not be able to do our work without your support and kindness. Many of the refugees we help are fleeing the conflict zones of Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan. Others are trying to escape political oppression in countries like Eritrea. All are human beings like us. As well as providing immediate physical assistance, we want to help refugees maintain their dignity.

Please click through if you would like to find out more about our work in Calais, Dunkirk, Lesvos, Samos, Idomeni and other locations. If you would like to know how you can help refugees, please check out our Get Involved section where you can find out how to fundraise for us and how to make a donation. Thank you!

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Urgent appeal from Annie in Calais – tents, sleeping bags, lanterns and more needed now!

An urgent appeal from Annie, who has been working in the Jungle for the last three months.

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Supplies are running low and funds are dwindling. We need your help NOW. The Jungle is freezing and the people are getting cold, sick, and desperate.

We urgently need

  • lanterns
  • tents
  • sleeping bags
  • roll mats
  • money

We can’t do this without you.

Thank you!

Annie

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Products and e-cards are available via www.leisurefayre.com – all items for Help Refugees have a 20% discount and are delivered free of charge to our warehouse in Calais to be quickly distributed to those most in need.  You can purchase blanketstents, waterproofs or sleeping bags from our dedicated list there.  These items will be sent directly to refugees in need.  Click on the banner on the Leisure Fayre homepage to find out more.

 

URGENT CALL FOR HELP from our team in Calais: Supplies are running low and funds are dwindling. We need your help NOW. The Jungle is freezing and the people are getting cold, sick, and desperate. Please help by donating to www.helprefugees.org and by buying urgent supplies at www.leisurefayre.com We can't do this without you. Thank you! Annie calaisdonations@gmail.com#helprefugees

Posted by Help Refugees on Tuesday, 15 December 2015

 


We would not be able to do our work without your support and kindness. Please click through on these links if you would like to find out more about our work or make a donation. Thank you!

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Dawn O’Porter’s digital Christmas Card – raising money for Help Refugees

Dawn has designed this lovely hand drawn Christmas Card to raise money for Help Refugees.

Choosing love is at the heart of what we do at Help Refugees and we think this is perfectly reflected in Dawn’s wonderful design!

Dawn’s MyDonate Christmas e-card can be bought for a minimum donation of £2 to Help Refugees and can then be shared through email and social media. All of the money for this charity e-card will go directly towards funding our work (apart from the 15p debit card or 1.3% credit card fee).

You can buy Dawn’s Christmas Cards by clicking on this link.

 


We would not be able to do our work without your support and kindness. Please click through on these links if you would like to find out more about our work or make a donation. Thank you!

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Vodafone Paddington HQ fundraising coffee cart supporting Help Refugees


We would not be able to do our work without your support and kindness. Please click through on these links if you would like to find out more about our work or make a donation. Thank you!

 

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