If we’re honest, we never meant to start anything big.
It began with one truck heading out to Calais on September 19th. We just wanted to fill it full of supplies to help the refugees in the camp. Basic stuff – toilet paper, tents, shoes, some tins of food. We went at it on Twitter, largely through Dawn’s account, using the hashtag #helpcalais, and went on and on about how people could help. BIG YELLOW STORAGE gave us a few rooms in their East Finchley location, and we asked people to send stuff directly there. People seemed keen to help, but the pressure to fill that truck was real. Could we do it? Would people be generous enough? We weren’t really sure.
We quickly realised that many people, kind as they were, were donating old goods. Battered tents, dirty clothes, broken equipment. This could all be useful, of course, but as the conditions in Calais worsened we needed supplies that would be of real use. So we had the bright idea to set up an Amazon Wish list. Now people who wanted to help could pay for brand new supplies, and have them delivered directly to our storage unit. It couldn’t have been easier, and it worked perfectly. But it was still slow. Many people were not grasping the magnitude of the problem. But then one tragic morning images of a little boy, Aylan Kurdi, dead on a beach, began circulating in the media. This devastating image was the wake up call everyone needed, it literally changed the world. Within 24 hours we received over 7000 packages. That truck on the 19th would be full to the brim, but where would we find the next ten trucks, that we now needed to shift the donations?
Suddenly, we couldn’t walk away. We needed a team, so started appealing for volunteers. People came in their droves to help us. Hours spent unpacking, logging and sorting without seeing the light of day. Administrators who helped build an inventory, logistics specialists who helped us work out how to be efficient in our distribution plan. Every single person who came stepped out of their own lives and selflessly helped us make this happen. We want to thank you all again, because we couldn’t have done any of this without you.
So…16 storage units full of supplies and an ocean to cross. We now had a challenge, and we really didn’t have any clue of how to pull it off. We’d raised a fair wack of money, so could pay for a couple of trucks to get to Greece, where we had heard people were even more desperate. We sent some of our team down there who literally handed out food and clothing as the refugees walked passed them. After that, we relied on the generosity of individuals and organisations. All we wanted was to act FAST, for that we needed help. We were given a truck by a lovely company called Theme Traders, an act of kindness we couldn’t believe. And then we struck a deal with a major supermarket chain who offered us free storage and free haulage all over Europe, meaning that we could get every single one of your donations to the people who needed them most.
And now here we are. Actively making life better in Calais, and doing what we can to get urgent help to Lesvos. There is too much red tape in these places for the major charities to get anywhere close, so grass roots organisations like ours really are the ones making a difference. We didn’t mean to be this heavily involved, but this isn’t something that any of us can walk away from. When you witness and understand the true horror of the lives these poor refugees have to endure, you feel impelled to help. So as much as raise money and supplies, we also want to raise awareness. We need everyone to understand that young Aylan was one of thousands of children who have died trying to make a treacherous journey to a better life, and there will be many, many more.
This problem is increasing every single day. It’s not getting better, and it is not going away. We saw a peak in public awareness when the images of that poor child emerged, and now it’s slipped away again as people presume things are improving. But that isn’t the case. We have to keep raising money and getting help to critical areas, and we can’t do that without you. Please donate, and we will keep you posted on exactly where your money goes. We can’t solve the problem, but we can make it a little easier on the people that we reach.
We never meant to start a charity, but we are really happy that we did.
Dawn, Lliana and Josie x x x