SOS Calais (Supporting Our Sisters in Calais)

Update posted by Helen McDonald On Feb 10, 2016

Thank you to each and everyone of you for all your help and support over the past few months.

Today we transferred the remaining funds in our crowd funding page to the women's and children's centre in the Jungle run by Liz Clegg who we have spoken of many times.

Liz and her team work with the women every day. They offer a life line and a safe space to the women and children of the jungle and is best use of the money we have raised. It will be used to purchase underwear, toiletries and clothing, baby foods and helps them to keep the centre running.

https://www.facebook.com/The-unofficial-Womens-and...

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Update posted by Helen McDonald On Jan 30, 2016

Today we took an entire car load of sanitary pads to Danielle, who is sending a container of aid to Idlib in Northern Syria.

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Update posted by Helen McDonald On Jan 29, 2016

We made another trip to the Jungle in early January. We took a car full of brand new underwear and socks for women, sleeping bags and fantastic hand knitted blankets, hats and scarves from the group Solidarity through craft which we dropped to the huge new warehouse run by L'auberge and Help Refugees, two of the main NGO's working on the ground in Calais. We also took 6 cricket bats and bags of tennis balls and tape for the youth centre so the children can play street cricket.

Sophie Walker, leader of the Women's Equality Party came with us and we showed her around the camp, introduced her to Liz Clegg and the women and children's centre that Liz runs. We spent time with Elaine who runs Hummingbird Project and sat in the Afghan flag restaurant for Chai tea. Sophie spoke with women refugees, who told her of their harrowing journeys across and their hope to reach loved ones in the UK. The conditions were appalling. The mud was thick, it was freezing cold and the wind was vicious around the camp. Sophie will be writing about her thoughts on the visit to the Jungle and I will post a link once she has done.

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Update posted by Helen McDonald On Dec 06, 2015

We are very excited to announce that the amazingly generosity of you fabulous people means that we have been able to fund a caravan which will be used by The Hummingbird Project and the Refugee Support First Aid & Care Team. Our caravan is called Jessica and she is currently under-going a refit, after which she will be staffed by a team of qualified medical volunteers who will be able to offer women in the camp contraception and sexual health advice.

Look out for more updates when Jessica is up and running!

You can find more information about The Hummingbird Project here: https://www.facebook.com/Hummingbirduk

and Refugee Support First Aid & Care Team here: https://www.facebook.com/CMS.UKaction/

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Update posted by Helen McDonald On Oct 31, 2015

On 17th ? 18th October 2015 we returned to Calais for our second visit to ?the jungle?.

Helen, Helen, Ali and Jose spent a day at the warehouse used for collection drop-off and distribution of donations run by L?Auberge des Migrants.This is a large space but it was full of donations, with more and more arriving with each passing hour.There is a very efficient system for sorting donations and nothing is wasted but it is endless work and, as soon as volunteers sort items, more arrives.It really brought home how important it is to only donate items that are necessary and useful at that time: space is at a premium and much time and effort is used sorting and removing unsuitable items. Whilst at the warehouse, a volunteer came several times asking for children?s clothes, once for a three month old baby, which, on a rainy day in a cold warehouse, made us think how dire the situation really is for the new mothers trying to take care of their children in ?the jungle?.

(Helen, Ali, Helen at L'Auberge des Migrant's warehouse)

Megan and Paul went into ?the jungle? to distribute sacks of onions, spices and tinned food to two of the community kitchens that have been set up to try to ensure every resident of the camp gets one hot meal a day.These are separate from the ?official? kitchen at the Jules Ferry Centre and are run by female residents of the camp.Whilst there, they met a young Iraqi woman who had arrived at the camp that day with her 12 year-old twin daughters, her 2 year-old son and her three month old daughter, possibly the same child Ali had but a package of clothes and essentials together for at the warehouse.The Iraqi woman made the journey with her mother and had given birth in Turkey after a treacherous boat trip.One of the volunteers at the camp, who is there for a longer period, helped to secure the family a van to sleep in and the children were happy to have some sweets but the long-term prospects for the family are very concerning.

We took lots of women?s underwear and socks, which was purchased, in part, with a donation made by the Southend-on-Sea Unison branch and the local TUC. We also took a lot of chocolate!

These donations were given to Liz Clegg, who went to the camp in August 2015 to distribute wellies and has never left. She lives in ?the jungle? and runs a small women-only safe space where female residents of the camp can go to collect essentials and, once a week, get clothes in a ?boutique? where the women?s space is set up to be like a shop so residents can browse and choose their own items.Liz is playing a vital role in ?the jungle? and supporting her is definitely supporting our sisters in Calais so, we gave her £300 to continue her amazing work and to ensure that her vehicle is in good working order for the winter months.

(Helen and Ali with Liz's amazing and crucial truck)

(The women's safe space)

(Inside the women's safe space)

In addition to this trip, we have also been working with Clement Blain and Association Salam to provide three winterised tents that have a stove, which will hopefully provide proper shelter for around 30 people over the coming winter months.

After many, many set backs and a great deal of hard work, Clement has secured the appropriate tents and these will be erected once the French government have identified the area of ?the jungle? which will be cleared to accommodate them along with the 1500 refugee tents they have said they will provide.The French government have guaranteed that these tents are not at risk of being demolished, which is obviously a great concern for us all.This will be overseen by an NGO already operating in ?the jungle? and will be allocated to women and children who are new residents and who may not wish to leave the male members of their family, which they would need to do if they were housed at the Jules Ferry Centre.

You can find Clement's updates here: https://gogetfunding.com/provide-shelters-to-migran...

So, what?s next?

As you can see from this latest update, the work we are able to do in collaboration with other groups and NGOs in Calais has moved way beyond providing sanitary products. In fact, as a result of everyone?s amazing generosity, we are in a position to be able to fulfil all future need for sanitary products.

What we hope to do now is to work closely with the existing women?s services in ?the jungle? to expand the provision.For example, a group of women from Eritrea would like to open a nail bar, which was their profession before the camp, and we hope to be able to help them build that.Of course, life in ?the jungle? is not predictable and the actions of the French government and police could mean plans change but that is what we hope for the moment.In the long-term, we also hope to help provide advice and support from sexual health nurses for women in the camp.There is a great deal of discussion taking place between international women?s organisations and government bodies with regard to the sexual violence and forced prostitution that is happening in the camp and we are contributing to that work.

Our major concern is how much ?the jungle? has changed in the past 6 weeks since our last visit.Official estimates have the number of residents at 6000, so double what it was in August, but volunteers on the ground estimate it is closer to 8000.The area is noticeably more crowded and, of course, the change in weather means the mud is now a massive problem, as is stagnant water and the lack of toilet facilities.Helping women and children keep warm, dry and able to cook hot meals in the coming months is going to be our priority in Calais whilst we also work on ?encouraging? organisations outside Calais to recognise the specific dangers women and children face as long as the camp exists.

Supporting Our Sisters in Calais has become something we never would have thought it could when we started this only three months ago and that is ALL down to the generosity of friend and many, many strangers.Please, continue to follow our updates and share the link far and wide so we can continue what we do: https://gogetfunding.com/supporting-sisters-in-calais/

With love and solidarity

Helen, Helen and Meg.


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Update posted by Helen McDonald On Sep 01, 2015

We just wanted to let you know that we are working closely with our contact in the camp to make sure we are providing practical help that is going to have a positive impact on the lives of women there. What is needed in camp changes almost daily and priorities change due to the weather conditions and the transient nature of the inhabitants.

We will always supply sanitary products but, due to your overwhelming generosity, we are now in a position to also help supply the camp with food and materials for building permanent shelters that are better suited to the rainy weather. Unfortunately, the Women?s Centre does not have enough space for all the women and children and many are still in tents in the main camp.

Our priority remains ensuring that the women in the camp have the dignity of sanitary products but we are really looking forward to being able to expand what we do thanks to each and every one of you!

Financial donations mean that we can purchase exactly what is needed in camp so please continue to spread the word and we will keep you updated via this page and our Facebook page www.facebook.co/supportingsistersUK

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This is really great. Please keep the updates coming as I really want to help make your next trip as successful and more! P

Christine lawton

Update posted by Sep 02

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Update posted by Helen McDonald On Aug 31, 2015

So, we have completed our first trip to Calais and it couldn't have gone more smoothly . . . well, apart from having no idea how the headlight adaptors worked but we got that sorted in the end!

We dropped off the physical donations with George at Association Salam who have a storage space at the rear of the camp, inside the Jules Ferry Centre. This is where hot meals are distributed, where people can access showers and basic washing facilities and the location of the women and children's centre.

The donations are sorted into rough categories, such as men's clothes, tents, bedding etc and piled up as high as possible before volunteers sort them further before distribution via a ticketing system. This allows residents of the camp to have some freedom to choose the clothes and things they would like rather than being given something chosen by someone else.

On the left of the picture above, just in front of the yellow door, you can see the pile of toiletries and sanitary products. On the right, closest to the camera, is the food and behind that is bedding, ground rolls and sleeping bags.

Once we'd unloaded, we were taken into 'the jungle' by Liz who had a truck we have all become obsessed with! The residents of the camp prefer not to have their photos taken so, whilst we did speak to people living in the camp, we do not have photos of them.

We drove through the main part of the camp and passed some of the more permanent structures people are making to live in. There are also some cafes selling chicken and chips and a couple of shops.

We saw the church and Jungle Books, which is the library. We spoke to Bill who is staying in the camp and offering English lessons and lessons on chaos theory!

Liz told us that litter is a big problem in the camp and they are always keen for volunteers to visit and help clean up.


Now that this visit is done, and we have a much clearer idea of what is needed, we will start planning our second trip which we hope will be in October 2015.

Thank you so much to everyone who donated money or physical items. We couldn't have done it without each and every one of you being awesome human beings and being willing to do something for our sisters and brothers in Calais.



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Update posted by Helen McDonald On Aug 27, 2015

Thank you so much to all the lovely Essex people who donated physical items. The van is full to bursting and we can't fit another single thing in!

Apologies to all the people who wanted to make last minute donations that we were unable to take. We had no idea people would be so generous and giving!

Look out for an update on our first trip after the weekend.

Au revoir!

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Update posted by Helen McDonald On Aug 15, 2015

Collections of physical donations have started!

If you would like to make a donation, we are taking:

sanitary pads, clean, warm comfortable clothes or jeans, jumpers, t-shirts, coats for any age/sex, socks and underwear. Pots, pans and cooking equipment, including tin openers, wet wipes and toiletries, tents, camping equipment, sleeping bags and duvets.

Please use these contact emails to arrange your collection or drop-off:

Colchester: megansaliu@hotmail.co.uk

Chelmsford: helenpudney40@gmail.com

Southend and area: helensupportingsisters@aol.co.uk

Manningtree: josephinerichardson@hotmail.co.uk

Clacton: TBA - check back soon!

Below is an itinerary of when donations will be collected:

Monday 24th August ? Collections start in Southend and area. Collections continue in Colchester, Chelmsford, Manningtree and Clacton.

Tuesday 25th August ? Collections continue in Colchester, Chelmsford, Manningtree, Clacton and Southend.

Wednesday 26th August - Collections continue in Colchester, Chelmsford, Manningtree, Clacton and Southend. LAST DAY to make donations in Manningtree and Clacton.

Thursday 27th August ? Donations form Manningtree and Clacton are moved to Colchester. Donations in Colchester, Chelmsford and Southend are sorted into bags ready for packing into the van. LAST DAY donations will be accepted in Colchester, Chelmsford and Southend and area.

Friday 28th August ? The van is packed!

Saturday 29th August ? And we're off!

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Update posted by Helen McDonald On Aug 14, 2015

So, it was one week ago today when we started this page hoping we'd get £100 to cover the ferry crossing! We could never have expected so many people to be so generous. The comments left have be amazing too and have really shown that there are lots of superb people in the world who are willing to help those in need.

We have started getting our physical donations together too. Here's some of the sanitary pads we've already collected but there's lots more to come thanks to each and ever one of you!

With love and solidarity,

Supporting Sisters x

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Anonymous

Backed with £10.00 On Jan 26, 2016

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Ayse Garibagaoglu

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Eilish Pudney

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Keep doing good, and giving these women the items they need to stay safe, comfortable, and clean!

Summer E.

Backed with £100.00 On Nov 30, 2015

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Betsy Blodgett

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Guest

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This is such a wonderful thing that you are doing, may all these refugees find safety and shelter soon!

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