Helping people in Calais – advice

Updated 8 September 2015: Alan Kurdi was Kurdish from Syria.  Heyva Sor is the Kurdish Red Crescent and you can donate here:

Heyva Sor

Give Money

A number of charities and non-governmental organisations have opened appeals specifically aimed at helping the plight of refugees. Various organisations spell out exactly what a specific donation could provide. Here’s a sample:

  • Migrant Offshore Aid Station: The charity which runs independent rescue boats to rescue migrants at risk of drowning has seen a huge spike in donations since pictures of the drowned Syrian boy emerged.
  • Médecins Sans Frontières: The humanitarian agency has three rescue ships in the Mediterranean, on Tuesday alone they rescued 1,658 people in its biggest day of operations.
  • Aylan Kurdi Fund: A specific fund named in honour of the drowned boy was set up within 24 hours of the circulation photographs of his body emerging. All proceeds will go to the humanitarian agency Hand in Hand for Syria.
  • Refugee Council: A donation of £100 could pay for the education and travel for two children for a week.
  • Unicef: The UN’s children’s charity is providing life-saving supplies such as clean water, medicine and psychological support. It says a donation of £9 could provide an emergency water kit for a family.
  • Save the Children: It says a donation of £50 could buy two hygiene kits including soap, towels and toothbrushes.
  • British Red Cross: A donation of £30 could buy 28 mats to help Syria refugees cope with the cold.
  • Islamic Relief: Three families could be fed for a month on a donation of £210, the charity says.
  • The crowdfunding website Just Giving has a list of specific appeals for migrants in Calais. It includes one of students trying to raise £750 to buy mobile phones, footballs, camping equipment, dictionaries, storage boxes, sanitary items and waterproof clothing.
  • The UNHCR is running camps, providing shelter and aid to refugees in Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon, as well as helping refugees across Europe.

Other Donations

It is not only cash that can help.

  • Refugee Action is offering to take old cars as donations. It says the last scrap car it took raised £126 for refugees. It is also looking for old mobile phones and even printer cartridges.
  • A Facebook group Music Against Borders is looking for musical instruments for migrant musicians in Calais.
  • Teacher Mary Jones is looking for donations of books for her Jungle Bookslibrary named after the Calais migrant camp.
  • The grass roots campaign Calais Action is urging supporters to donate in any way they can. It has put together a map of drop-off and collection zones.


  • The US refugee charity the International Rescue Committee has opportunities to volunteer at all of its 22 offices. Roles include mentoring refugee families and helping refugees find jobs. The organisation also asking for donations.


What are you doing to help?

Aid group urges Britons not to drive to Calais after convoy situation

Organiser of grassroots campaign at makeshift camp asks Britons to donate through Calaid instead after Belgian private convoy causes disruption

Aid piled up in a distribution centre in Calais.

One volunteer organisation working with migrants stranded in Calais is urging Britons not to drive to the French port after reports of a disruption following the spontaneous arrival of a convoy of aid.

Hundreds of aid initiatives have sprung up across Europe in the past 48 hours in response to the deepening refugee crisis and the shocking images of three-year-old Aylan Kurdi’s body on a Turkish beach.

But after a convoy of Belgian volunteers sparked a disruption on Friday, James Fisher, the organiser of grassroots campaign Cal Aid, said it was vital that people donated through a centralised distribution system.

“We are struggling to cope, not with British aid, but Belgian aid,” he said from Calais, describing the arrival of 35 people with donations causing a rush of people to the vans as they turned up.

“The police had to come down and they are now saying they won’t let anyone in without the correct papers,” said Fisher.

He said material donations were needed, but that they had to be given in a “respectful manner” that does not dehumanise the people in the camp.

Fisher added: “We do need stuff, but we need it for November and later. So people shouldn’t turn up at the camp now because it will just be left lying there on the street. It needs to be rationed out properly.”

A photographer and film-maker, Fisher is one of nine volunteers running the website and its Facebook page for the past two months.

He said distribution of donations up to now had been smooth, but he added that it is imperative that everything is distributed in controlled conditions to maintain the dignity of the approximately 3,000 people in the camp.

He is organising monthly collections of items which will then be stored in Calais warehouses and distributed as needed. “We would like [people] instead of driving to Calais to donate to us instead and we will distribute it,” said Fisher.

The group recently got access to a 700 sq m warehouse in France and will use this to stockpile donations.

The harrowing pictures of Aylan and his five-year-brother Ghalib, who also died in an attempt to get from Turkey to Kos, has prompted a surge in donations to Calaid.

“One of the donors on our JustGiving page said he was giving everything he had. That was £4.65. That meant so much more than the donations of £100s,” said Fisher.

16 August 2015: If you have Facebook keep an eye on this:

Matthew Wright: CALAIS UPDATE I’ve just had a question from a group member about bringing donations to the camp. I thought the exchange would be of general interest. Please see below. Thanks for reading.

“I hope this message finds you well. I’m sure you are very busy so I’m sorry to disturb you but I was hoping you might be able to help. My husband and I are coming ot the camp on Saturday 29th August.

I have been collecting clothes and food via a Facebook campaign and we want to deliver it personally but also help in some way and hopefully get a chance to meet and speak to the people living in the camp.

I’ve been reading mixed reports, with certain groups saying you cannot access the camp without permission, or that we should drop off our goods and let the volunteers on the ground distribute? I respect that there are for more experienced people on the ground than myself but I really do want to help and meet the people. I’d be disappointed if I was turned away.”

Hello Mr & Mrs Smith. Thanks for your message. The camp is by no means closed to visitors; those who want a genuine positive experience for all involved (residents et al) are extremely welcome and encouraged. However, it neeeds to be borne in mind that the Jungle is somewhere where people call home (as mad as that sounds). Tourists, gawpers, rubber neckers, or whoever are probably less welcome. By all means come along and bring donations. Donations are very much needed. This does need to be balanced with a word or two of caution as experience tells volunteers on the ground that donations from the back of a car can quickly go pear shaped.

First of all, I do not recommend UK visitors distributing clothes. It just ends up with a clothing strewn landscape and frustration and disappointment for all involved. On the other hand, there are safe ways (for both migrants and donors) to distribute food, and conversely there are also ways that could start a food riot. The consensus of opinion from foreign volunteers and not just Calais based groups, is that you really need a team of volunteers with you. Organise a group of friends to go together, or meet up with an arriving group, wear high-viz tops covered with “Bénévole” or “Volunteer” or some other such wording. Organise, the the crowd like you would if you were stewards at a queue outside a club, gig, football match, make sure your donations are pre-organised and bring plenty of bags to give the the people receiving the food. Even then, the situation can become very tense and stressful for all involved, so a sense of humour and a strong constitution are useful personality traits to possess. (read my post from yesterday about the food distribution)

So, to sum up, get organised and come with a group, or alternatively come over with your donations: food for l’auberge des migrants and clothes/shoes for Secours Catholique. Then relax and take a walk around the camp, talk to people and listen to their stories, visit the church and the (soon to open) library, drop off exercise books and pencils and crayons to the school, bandages/dressings to Medicines du Monde and finally grab some dinner in the “Afghan Flag” restaurant or one of the other new food outlets on the site. I hope this of help to you. Finally, if you contact the local associations before you come, you can either synchronise your distribution or avoid doubling up on the same day. Bon Voyage and Bonne chance.

Matthew Wright's photo.

CALAIS UPDATE 15th August 2015 Part 2:

l’Auberge des Migrants did the Saturday food distribution today at the camp. I’m thankful I get an opportunity to help out in the line, when the food gets given out from the back of the van as it’s quite an event, a real eye opener, not a lot of fun for those in the queue and certainly not something to volunteer for if you are faint of heart. But it really provides some perspective and ensures that once you’ve ‘Walked The Line in the Jungle’, you’ll never complain again about having to wait in a line at the supermarket. We were joined today byDorothea Russell, a schoolteacher who has come out by herself ,joined the affray and got stuck in. We were also joined by a great team from the UK on an away day. I think they were from London: I spoke to Mitch and Nathalie (a huge shout out to them, if anyone knows how to get in contact). It was a bloody good turn out from this London crew: the team with l’Auberge des Migrants gave out bread, some vegetables and pastries, and the London mob (my name for them not theirs) gave out bags of tinned food and other assorted goodies (I didn’t see in the bags, but there were no complaints, so it was all good). I have to say the London group were really switched on. Now even though the l’Auberge team had more rations today than on Tuesday, there were more people than last time, so unfortunately, we ran out of bread with about 100 people to go, and even when we cut the ration to ensure everyone got something, it still wasn’t quite enough. During the food distribution, it can become bit of “a bun fight” as the less community spirited guys (and gals) try to jump the queue, push in, jor mall groups of lad try and scrum their way to the front, while others try and circumnavigate behind the volunteers. Those in the queue are mostly really, really patient, remarkably so: if someone tries to cheat the queue, a cry goes up, and like a team appealing for a penalty, they offended parties look to a referee. I apologise if this sounds insensitive, but it seems a fairly accurate analogy, even though the stakes are a lot higher. If the “ref” doesn’t make a clear decision and produce a yellow or even a red card against the offender, then anarchy breaks out as trust is lost in the “system” (everyone is treated fairly and the queuing system is sacrosanct). Thanks for reading. I’ll try and post another update later with photos, although it’s probably going to be tomorrow, as I don’t think I’ll have Internet access later.

Hello awesome people. Any of you coming here to Calais to donate or do anything contact me. I am staying in the jungle and I would love to help carrying boxes, distributing, and even translating English to Arabic. I am staying here till I manage to cross inshAllah, and I would love to help in any way possible. Salam.

CALAIS UPDATE: Medical Supplies are needed by Medicines Du Monde for use in their emergency care clinic tent. DRESSINGS, CREPE BANADAGES, DRESSING PACKS, SINGLE USE THERMOMETERS, GLOVES (latex is fine, I did ask). I spoke with two of the volunteer doctors yesterday and I asked what they needed. Their clinic tent in the camp is staffed by a handful of volunteers. Contact address to follow.

Critical Mass to Calais : Bikes Beyond Borders!Got a bike and want to pass it on? This is an attempt to get bikes and other provisions to refugees in Calais.If you have, or can source a bike to donate, then please, please join us this August bank holiday weekend on our little trip cycling across the channel: Critical Mass to Calais, taking bikes beyond borders!We will release more details nearer the time, but you can get involved in any way shape or form (there are many, many ways) just scroll down and pick from the options below.Why CMC:BBB?The vast majority of people living in the camps have left their home countries for reasons of war and persecution in search of safety and security. Now, having been forcibly evicted from autonomous camps in Calais to a new ‘designated area’, 7km from the town centre, there are in the region of 2000 people, including women and unaccompanied minors, living in conditions of poor sanitation with minimal access to support and services.Most cyclists can relate to the sense of freedom, mobility and self sustainability afforded by the bicycle. For people living in the camps, bicycles are an invaluable asset, improving quality of life by increasing access to basic essentials like the local shop and support and advice services, currently over an hour’s walk away. Some organisations have already began taking bikes to the camps, but many more are needed.Here is how to JOIN IN THE FUN:1) THE BIG ONE – 2 Day Cycle from London to Calais leaving Saturday 29th August with overnight camp fun to break the journey – Location and route details TBA nearer the time.2) 1 Day Cycle from London to Calais leaving Sunday 30th August – For the faster riders or those with time constraints.3) 1 Day Cycle, starting at overnight camp (location TBA) to Calais – For those who want a shorter ride.4) Just get to Calais! You may want to donate a bike and visit Calais with us, but perhaps don’t fancy the ride or don’t live in London or the UK…so just find the best way to meet – perhaps even starting a critical mass from your own city!Don’t have a bike you are able to donate?1) Come along for the ride! Donating is not mandatory at all, the more the merrier, so join in the fun at any of the stages listed above!

2) Talk to your pals! Do you know there are 7 times more unused bikes in garages and gardens in London than out on the roads, so speak to your friends or neighbours to get your hands on one!

3) Get a second- hand bike from your local bike shop

Don’t fancy the ride?

1) Get your bike to Calais in any way you can! We know that riding isn’t for everyone, the main objective is to get as many bikes to the camps as possible, so if you have another way of getting yours there, then find us at either Dover or Calais on the Sunday.

2) Join us as a support vehicle! You never know what might happen the road and we would love to be accompanied along the way! There will be mechanics in the group but parts and refreshments will need their own ride.

3) Donate any spare bicycles to the cause! There are many organisations who refurbish unused bicycles and donate them to asylum seekers and refugees, message us and we can connect you!

4) We’re also raising funds to support this endeavour.

The money raised will go towards:

Fuel and ferry tickets (£190+) for support vehicles. Support vehicles will be carrying donations, bikes for children and any spare bikes and tools that we can collect between now and the 29th of August.

Any money left over will be spent on supplies we can stuff into the van and take with us: tents, sleeping bags, food, gloves, shoes, cricket balls, magazines, school textbooks.