In November 2015 Clare Moseley founded Care4Calais, a humanitarian charity that provides urgently needed aid and support to refugees in Northern France. Today there are approximately 700 refugees in Calais, 250 in Dunkirk, 300 in Brussels, 1,500 in Paris and 300 in Caen, including unaccompanied minors as young as 13 years old.
The charity is always looking for donations or volunteers – if you’d like to help please visit www.care4calais.org to find out more. Or, you might like to get involved with their winter campaign – #Coats4Calais – celebrities, politicians and thousands of individuals have all donated a warm coat for a refugee, including me! Please could you raid your wardrobe and do the same? Thank you!
Describe a typical day for you?
Despite the ‘Calais Jungle’ closing in 2016 there are still hundreds of refugees living in horrendous conditions in the Calais region, fleeing from war-torn or politically unstable countries in the Middle East and Africa. I have been here for over two years now and the conditions have never been as bad as they are today – no sanitation, an irregular food supply and no protection from the elements. Health issues, including mental health, have never been as widespread. This is an ongoing crisis with no end in sight. No day is the same, but while I’m in Calais one thing is for sure, every hour is filled desperately trying to help as many of these refugees as possible.
Normally I wake up in my bedsit in Calais, take a quick shower, grab a 30 second breakfast and head down to our warehouse on the outskirts of town where we collect together donated clothes, food and camping equipment. We have a fair amount of donations right now but it’s still not enough, the problem is widespread. We brief our volunteers and then split into teams. In the morning we work in the warehouse then by lunchtime we are out on the road taking aid to the refugees and dealing with their problems face-to-face, anywhere across Northern France or Belgium.
No two days are the same and I never tire of meeting the refugees and hearing the their stories. Helping them means so much; given the levels of hopelessness and despair we see, Care4Calais firmly believes that the human contact, a five minute conversation or small amount of emotional support, is just as important as the aid we deliver. We encourage all our volunteers to spend time with the refugees. If they can maintain hope in these circumstances, we can be brave enough to start a conversation with a person we don’t know.
What do you feel are your biggest achievements?
When I first read about the refugee crisis in Calais I was shocked to find that there was little in the way of charity support in the region for refugees in northern France – people just like you and me living in squalor just 25 miles from our shores. I couldn’t believe it. Families, young men, unaccompanied minors. Within weeks I was shuttling from the UK to France with supplies for the refugees and before I knew it, I was living full time in France, giving up my normal life in the UK.
After volunteering in Calais during the summer of 2015 it wasn’t long before I took it upon myself, along with two other volunteers, to start Care4Calais. Today we have had over 7,000 volunteers through our doors who help us deliver aid to the refugees 365 days of the year. All our donors are ordinary people – we have no government, corporate or big financiers who support us. Our money comes from everyday people who collect clothes, hold raffles, bake cakes, organise school or church collections, you name it – but it’s real people. It’s an amazing feeling and a massive responsibility at the same time. It’s wonderful to be a part of, and I will never tire of seeing a glimmer of happiness on a refugee’s face when we provide them with a desperately needed coat, or more gas cylinders so they can cook again or a sim card so they can contact their family back home. Every bit of help we provide to a refugee is an achievement in itself.
What’s in your handbag/ satchel?
My purse, mobile phone and spare battery pack (super important), passport (always carry ID), a couple of vouchers to top up mobile phones (refugees not mine, again super important) lots keys (warehouse and containers), tissues and wet wipes. My make-up days are over so one thing you won’t find is a lipstick!
What are your ambitions in life?
To develop Care4Calais so that, as a charity, it can help more refugees across Europe, not just in Northern France. We are hoping to go to the Italian border early this year, and maybe even Serbia. I would also love to find more time for campaigning. It’s desperately important that more pressure is brought to bear on the UK government to play a greater part in the refugee crisis. I know there are so many people in the UK who want us to be doing more. We are a strong country and we should be able to do more in what is the biggest humanitarian crisis of our generation.
We’ve had support from a number of high profile politicians, including both MPs and MEPS, Diane Abbott, Yvette Cooper, Caroline Lucas to name a few. We want to continue to work with these influential politicians to drive forward fairer legislation and help the refugees to receive the help they so desperately need.
What do you wish you’d known at the start of your career you now know?
I wish I’d made the change in career, from the normal corporate world that was my life, to the craziness that it is now, sooner. I was stronger and faster when I was younger, and that would be useful now. And that the refugee crisis in Northern France is a humanitarian crisis of our time and is going to take many, many years to resolve.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?
In the UK, running an expanded Care4Calais that helps more refugees and helping people in the UK to do more to help.
What advice would you give a budding campaigner?
Follow your heart and your instincts. So many decisions are made that are just not right or fair but it doesn’t mean you have to accept them.
When I first became involved with Calais I was shocked by the negative attitude so many had towards the refugees. It just felt so wrong. I speak with refugees every day and they are just like us – missing their families, university educated with dreams to chase, the only difference is, they’re also running for their lives.
Finally, happiness is…
Walking on a ‘Refugees Welcome’ march in central London arm in arm with two wonderful refugees who had come to England, via Europe (including Calais), having escaped from Sudan. They wanted nothing more than to be back at home with their relatives but for now, despite everything they had gone through to get there, they had asylum safety in the UK and they were both relieved but finally happy.
There’s a picture of me walking with them with pride – the smiles on mine and their faces is what I call ‘happiness’. If you can help make a refugee happy please, please do. Whether it’s a financial contribution to help buy warm winter coats, whether you want to come to volunteer for a day, a weekend, a summer holiday, get in touch. All our details can be found at www.care4calais.org We really can’t wait to meet you!