Volunteers’ aid mission to Calais refugee camp

We Are Wakefield members Emma Kirk and Sally Kincaid with supplies before the group set off on their Calais trip.
We Are Wakefield members Emma Kirk and Sally Kincaid with supplies before the group set off on their Calais trip.

Kind-hearted volunteers travelled to a refugee camp in Calais to deliver two trucks full of supplies.

Members of the We Are Wakefield organisation took part in the aid mission to The Jungle migrant encampment in northern France on May 29.

They returned on June 1 after donating medical supplies, letters of support and food.

Musician Jilly Riley, who lives in South Elmsall, was among the volunteers and helped teach children using songs during the trip.

She said: “It’s shocking conditions that these people are living in there.

“It was a life changing experience seeing it and it was on the journey back when it hit me - we just burst into tears. It’s a reality check.”

The organisation raised money to pay for a school bus which will carry children at the camp to a make-shift school and back to their shelters. Ms Riley, 34, said during their stay French police fired tear gas after tensions rose at the camp.

She said: “A lot of the canisters didn’t explode and the refugees were clearing it up after and some went off in their faces.

“It was dangerous and it’s not safe for kids there to walk back and forth to the school so the bus will really help.”

The convoy also took more than 100 letters of support with special messages, penned by children in schools across the district.

A builder was among the volunteers, who helped fix shelters which had been damaged or destroyed the day they arrived after a fire broke out in the camp.

Around 6,000 refugees were living in the camp during the volunteers’ stay in the French city.

Ms Riley, who works as a musician and volunteers at schools around the district, has written a song based on her experiences at the camp.

She added: “They have built their own community at the camp with shops and restaurants and there are always volunteers around support it.

“I really enjoyed the teaching while I was there.

“We had a language barrier because most don’t speak English and they were really young children but the music really helped.

Ms Riley now plans to release her song to raise money for We Are Wakefield.

The organisation is planning on returning with a second convoy at the end of June.

For more information about We Are Wakefield, visit their Facebook page.