My Calais Experience – by volunteer Liz

It was an amazing experience and certainly one that I will volunteer for again“.

I have just returned from spending a weekend volunteering at the refugee camp in Calais. I was part of a group of 8 people who went to offer their services and help in any way that we could to ease the plight of the refugee situation.

We were occupied primarily in the warehouse, dealing with all non food items, clothes, footwear, toiletries, toys, tents, sleeping bags etc. My task, along with Sarah, was in the sewing area; mending clothes, replacing zips, darning jumpers, mending blankets and sleeping bags, replacing buttons and performing any task needed to repair the items.

It was very rewarding seeing the mound of clothes slowly diminish and be returned to stock ready for distribution.

The whole operation is superbly managed by Dom, an ex Borlaise student volunteering at Calais, who manages and runs the warehouse. He makes time to meet and greet every volunteer who arrives, a daily occurrence, with people arriving from all different countries. He gives them a tour of the warehouse and outlines which tasks need doing in order of priority before setting them off to their volunteering role.

It doesn’t just stop there, Dom checks in periodically during the day to ensure that everyone is OK and happy with what they are doing. At lunchtime he guarantees that everyone is transported to a nearby warehouse for their meal, and brings them back again for the afternoon.

Dom has his finger on the pulse, he knows exactly what is going on in each area of the warehouse, what needs doing and the common pitfalls. He takes his role very seriously and knows that the smooth running of the warehouse is vital for the success of this complex operation; feeding, clothing and providing for 2000 refugees every day in multiple camp sites is no easy task.

His social and people skills are very impressive, you are not just a volunteer, to Dom you are an important cog in a very big wheel and he values every single person and their input and contribution. He is very quick to praise and recognise the impact that everyone is making.

A smile came to my face when I heard Dom showing a newly arrived volunteer from Belgium around, and when offering him a coffee, checked ‘would instant coffee be OK?’ That’s how much Dom cares and understands.

He knows that the success of his operation depends on volunteers who feel as passionately as him about making a difference to those much less fortunate than ourselves.

Between his tireless efforts, and the opportunity to help the plight of the refugees living in the camp in some small way, I was totally blown away. It was an amazing experience and certainly one that I will volunteer for again.