Read about how Help Refugees grew from a small group of friends to an international NGO
Help Refugees started in the summer of 2015 in response to the worsening situation for refugees in Europe. A group of friends had wanted to raise £1,000 and fill a van full of donations to take down to Calais. Within a week, we had raised £56,000. We were soon receiving 7,000 items every day.
After an incredible outpouring of support from the British public, we arrived in Calais in August 2015 with donations and funding. Expecting to find NGOs and governmental bodies, we were shocked to find a few local French associations working to provide for the 3,000 refugees living in the informal camp at the time without the capacity to coordinate the influx of British volunteers and aid. We partnered with L’Auberge des Migrants, rented a warehouse, learnt how to sort donations and set up a system of distribution in the Calais ‘Jungle’ refugee camp. Overnight, we had become the biggest aid operation in northern France.
“I’ve been impressed by the sheer guts of this group of humanitarians… Help Refugees has established itself as a force to be reckoned with campaigning for change, and raising awareness of the dangers faced by refugees, particularly unaccompanied minors.”
Maya Mailer, Head of Humanitarian Policy at Oxfam
Fast forward two years, and we have helped over 722,500 people, managed over 25,000 volunteers, and we support more than 80 projects across Europe and the Middle East. We have established a fieldwork first, networked approach to giving aid, researching need at a local level, establishing local networks and working with local partners to deliver projects.
Boosted by the support of high-profile musicians, filmmakers and actors who joined our ‘Choose Love’ campaign, we believe that together with our ever growing network of grassroots groups, implementing partners, volunteers, fundraisers, and supporters we have pioneered a new movement in humanitarian response – acting quickly and flexibly, enabling ordinary people to help other ordinary people in need in the most direct ways possible.