Donations of washbags, tents and bedding sent from Colchester to migrants living in ‘the jungle’ camp in Calais
06:00 12 October 2015
A convoy of vehicles will be leaving for Calais from Colchester tomorrow, taking supplies and donations to the refugees camped at the French port town.
A “warehouse full” of donations have been collected from people across north Essex, after one man, moved by the plight of the refugees, put out a Facebook message asking people to help.
Volunteers responded to Trey Khan’s Facebook plea, sorting thousands of donations into useful packages and organising several collection points across Colchester, Wivenhoe, Brightlingsea and Layer de la Haye.
In the five weeks since Refugee Action Colchester was formed, donations have far exceeded expectations. After their trip to Calais, they plan to transport more goods to Kos in Greece, and to Malta.
Mr Khan said: “They are human beings who need help. We are trying to do whatever we can to help out.
“They have been forced to chose between staying in a country torn apart by war or making a dangerous journey to somewhere they can be safe.
“I knew I just had to help, and put a message on Facebook and people responded. The volunteers have been incredible, giving up their time to organise collection points, storage and to sort through all the donations. They are not rich people, but they are doing it anyway.”
Maria Wilby, treasurer for the group, said the response of the people of north Essex had been overwhelming, singling out Wivenhoe for special praise.
“It was beyond our expectations,” she said. “We have had to stop taking donations because we have no where left to store them.
“We have volunteers storing them in a spare room at a hotel, in a post office where we have a collection point, it has been incredible.
“We have been liaising with someone on the ground in the Calais camp, known as the Jungle, and have sorted out the donations into packages of items they need most.
“They are mainly men in Calais, so we have 450 individually packed wash bags, about 250 tents, 150 bags of food supplies, 300 sleeping bags and bed rolls, and dozens of other items of suitable clothing like waterproofs.
“We are working with our contact to identify those of most need, like the elderly who cannot queue up, so we can be as effective as possible.
“A lot of what we have left over is clothing for women and children, so that will be going to Kos, and it is mainly families in Malta so we will make sure we get items that they need.”
She said a real turning point and “wake up call” was when the images of the dead Syrian three-year-old boy, Aylan Kurdi, resonated around the world’s press.
A convoy of four vehicles will leave for Calais in the early hours of tomorrow, with Mr Khan stressing that the group will not stop there.
He said: “David Cameron and our government are not doing enough, so we will need to keep on helping. I hope to be travelling to Kos and Malta by Christmas, to show the children there that we do care in England.
“Then I want to eventually have a group that has a ready supply of donations so we can respond to a crisis wherever it is within 72 hours, that is my aim. People will always need help, and I want to be there to offer it.”
To find out more about the group, how to volunteer or when donations reopen, visit their page by searching “Refugee Action - Colchester” on Facebook.