A woman tries to make a phone call at the camp 'New Jungle' in Calais. (REX)

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What can you do to help the people at Calais?

Dawn O’Porter is raising money and gathering donations for the refugees at Calais. Here’s how to get involved 

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By Caroline O'Donoghue on

By now, you've seen enough about Calais to know you've seen too much: that the horror has spiralled out of control, that camps' resources are so thin on the ground that their sustainability is highly questionable, and that the need for help and compassion only grows more potent as each day passes. And yet, debate continues, rather than actual action. Tabloids and broadsheets alike discuss whether or not people "deserve" help, and drowning children are discussed as if they are tin cans falling off of a shelf.

And so, it's people like us who need to help. Not sure where to start? Dawn O'Porter has been busy recruiting supplies and donations through her Twitter feed, and we asked her where we should start. 

Your Twitter feed is abuzz with #HelpCalais links to information, donations, fundraisers, petitions and appeals to help assist the situation. Can you condense the main causes to support, and what they're doing?

 

We are appealing for donations for the refugees in Calais (and hopefully extending this to Greece and Macedonia soon). We have trucks and vans going out to Calais on September 17 and the aim is for them to be jam-packed with tents, sleeping bags, food and much much more. We don’t believe that any human beings should have to live that way, so we want to help them. No matter where you sit politically, we believe that we have an obligation to at least keep other people dry and fed. So that’s what we’re doing. Many of these people have escaped horrors that most of us can’t even imagine. What effort is it really, to send a package with some food in it for them to eat?

A lot of people who are sympathetic to the crisis feel as though there's nothing they can do – what's the most useful way someone can lend their support?

 

Everyone can help. You can donate money to our crowdfunding page.

We will use that money to buy more urgent supplies, get the transport to Calais, and also to store the supplies when they get there so they can be distributed properly. 

People can also do an online food order (tinned or dried) and arrange for it to be delivered to us, or even order items off our Amazon wish list and we will do the rest to make sure they get to those in need.

What are the most useful items someone could potentially donate? 

 

I’m happy to say that they now have enough nappies and sanitary products, which is great news. Women’s clothing have been the most donated items, but men need clothes too. There is a shortage of warm clothes and the weather is getting worse. So men’s clothes, boots, socks, thermal wear and coats are much needed. And then camping equipment: large tents, tarpaulin, sleeping bags, camping stoves. Some of the refugees have nothing to sleep under, so it’s very basic stuff like that that we need. A library has also been set up, and they are appealing in particular for English-French dictionaries as most of them speak good English already but need a little help communicating with the French volunteers on the ground.

In large part, the coverage of the migrant crisis has been bizarrely, upsettingly, unsympathetic. It seems there's a sort of cognitive dissonance going on: people are well aware of ISIS, the Syrian crisis and Libya's collapse, but few people seem to be aligning that with the thousands of people attempting to escape these (and other) countries. Why do you think that is? 

 

Lots of people are suggesting that those in Calais aren't just refugees, that many are simply “economic migrants” (the truth is it’s a mixture of both) but even those are simply people escaping from terrible poverty and risking everything to try and build a better lives for themselves and their families. 

While the leaders of the world get to sorting their shit out, the least we can do is keep the innocent victims of their decisions warm and fed.

You’ve been tweeting brands like Kettle Crisps and Pampers to get involved – do you think brands and well-known figures have a responsibility to lend their support in crises like these? 

 

I guess a part of me understands why big brands are nervous to get involved with political campaigns, but personally I am more drawn to the ones that don’t shy away from issues like this. They have such power – why not use it? Or at least be generous with it. Kimberly-Clark has been amazing, donating loads of loo roll and tissues and wipes. They even sent 2,000 earplugs, which I thought was a genius idea. And Huggies sent a load of nappies. Other brands are also being very generous. Hardwear is donating clothing and equipment and A Small Business Delivery Company have been brilliant. I am hoping more brands step forward. Although I have to say, individuals have blown us away. Packages of all sizes coming from members of the public, containing everything from tampons to babygros.

To get involved, please send any clean donations (from the list of stuff most needed) to:
 

HELP CALAIS
Big Yellow 
401 High Road
Finchley
N2 8HS

 

Or order online via the Amazon Wish List

You can also follow Dawn O’Porter on Twitter for regular updates @hotpatooties, check #HelpCalais or join the Help Calais page on Facebook.

@Czaroline

A woman tries to make a phone call at the camp 'New Jungle' in Calais. (REX)
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Refugee crisis
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