Dulwich2Dunkirk to hold food collection at refugee football match

Dulwich2Dunkirk has joined forces with UK Action for Refugees to collect non-perishable food at a charity football match between Dulwich Hamlet FC and FC Assryia on Wednesday  (9 March 2016).

We are asking our supporters, friends and family to bring us tinned and dried food such as beans and rice, which will be donated to people living in camps in France, Syria and refugees in the UK who struggle to make ends meet.

UK Action For Refugees are sending a number of containers of aid and supplies out to Syria, the first of which left in February.

Dulwich2Dunkirk co-founder and Dulwich Hamlet Supporters’ Trust Board member Jack Spearman,  said: “We have been to the camps a number of times since October delivering food, sleeping bags and other supplies. I’ve seen how much difference the donations make, even a bag of rice or a tin of chickpeas helps.”

What to bring

  • Cans of lentils and beans – ring pull cans
  • Cans of vegetables, fruit or fish – ring pull cans
  • Oil or ghee12735828_10156489509480246_2040551007_n
  • Rice
  • Nuts
  • Long life pitta bread
  • Instant porridge and soup
  • Condensed or UHT Milk
  • Baby food
  • Dried fruit
  • Cereal Bars
  • Spices
  • Pasta

Bring your donations along to the match between Dulwich Hamlet vs FC Assyria next wednesday (9 March 2016). Kick off is at 7.45pm at Champion Hill Stadium, Edgar Kail Way, East Dulwich. The collection point will be in the club house and will be open from 7pm.

Entrance: £5 for adults, £2 concessions, under 12s go free. All money raised on the night will be split between the Syrian Red Cross Appeal and Southwark Refugee Communities Forum.

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They’re still there

Written by Valerie, Stade Rennais supporter

As I go back to my warm house and my comfortable life after a weekend spent in Calais and Dunkerque refugee camps, I can’t shake off the thought that the people I saw and met are still there. I knew what to expect, so nothing surprised me in the camps; not the lack of facilities, not the mud and certainly not the desperation. But the ‘normality’ of it brings much sadness. However long they last, these squalid conditions are currently the norm for residents.

Don’t be fooled by the sprouts of capitalism that have emerged in Calais in the form of little wooden shops, nor by the jolly “Welcome to the City” sign at the entrance. Beyond this is a sea of tents barely good enough for an English summer, let alone for a cold and rainy winter. Don’t be fooled either by the smiles and the friendly greetings. Everyone here is desperate, everyone is hoping for something better. You wait, you hope. And in the meantime you live here as best as you can.

I’m an ordinary 43-year-old French woman living in London. I can’t say that I have any solution to offer, and the problem is much too complex for me to delve into the how and the why. So I choose not to think about it; I choose to concentrate on the now. Whatever the reason, whatever the circumstances, the fact is that people are in the camps now, living in this desperate ‘norm’ they have been forced into. So if I could do something to help, I thought I should.  Since December, I’ve been baking for friends and family to raise money to help feed the people in the camps. All the proceeds go to ‘Kitchen in Calais‘, a small group of volunteers cooking much-needed meals for the refugees every day.

With the support of my friends and family, my recent collection allowed me to buy 80kg of lentils, 20kg of chicken, 100 cucumbers, 4kg of spices, 1,000 serving plates and some bottled gas. That might not sound like much, but it was enough for a meal for a thousand residents. If four people could buy a thousand meals every day…

Started a few months ago in a small caravan turned food van, Kitchen in Calais has slowly grown and now prepares more than a thousand servings a day, as well as countless cups of tea. At the heart of this formidable team is Sofinee, one of the most upbeat people I have ever met. Her infectious laugh makes you want to smile whatever the circumstances. But don’t stop peeling those potatoes as Sofinee has no time for slackers. She rules her kitchen with a no-nonsense attitude focused on one thing only: delivering the daily meal that residents of the camp have come to rely on. She is all too aware of the fact that she can’t cater for all of them, and that saddens her. She wonders how long this situation will last, how long she will be able to help and what will become of the camp and its residents. But for now, she keeps cooking.

It was my love of everything culinary that drew me to Sofinee and her kitchen. While cooking is not my job, I am a bit obsessed with it. I love nothing more than spending time in my kitchen making pastry the way my granny taught me or burning my fingers on caramel. So not only is my charity collection very easy to run, it also allows me to do something I love for a good cause. I would urge you to think of any hobby of yours that you might be able to turn into a not-for-profit money making scheme. No help is too small, and your project doesn’t need to stretch your abilities.

Back in Dunkerque, the norm is ankle-deep mud. The norm is for helpers to have to smuggle into the camp any item that the police prohibits, like small gas canisters that will give a family a hot meal that evening. The norm is going hungry if you have no cooking equipment, cold and wet if you have no roof. On the first evening I met two men who had just arrived, who hadn’t slept for four days and who were barely managing to stand up while trying to put up a tent that they did not understand.

They didn’t even have a plastic sheet to put on the ground.

And then there is the dirt. Before leaving, the team I was involved with organised a litter picking mission, a much-needed effort since the residents do not have any of the facilities they would need to keep the place clean.

We went from tent to tent picking up the litter that was inevitably surrounding residents’ ‘homes’, from dirty nappies to discarded packaging and unsuitable clothing. Rats were running away as we rummaged through piles of rubbish. “We’re used to them now”, said two women who peeked out of their tents as we were clearing around it. I guess they are still there.

For more information or to support Sofinee’s kitchen without leaving your sofa, order something delicious from Valeries Calories on Facebook or get in touch with Valerie via email.

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Find out more about how we help residents in the camps

Last night a DJ saved my life

Written by Sarah, Easton Cowboys supporter

A strange thing happens when you return from volunteering in the refugee camps in France, obviously I can’t speak for everyone who has gone to help, there are hundreds perhaps thousands, but from the few dozen or so I’ve spoken to it seems the response is pretty universal.

You’re overwhelmed, to the point of inertia.

After I returned from helping at the Dunkirk refugee camp as part of one of the waste and sanitation teams, something changed in me. I went from passionately and energetically helping to clear rat infested rubbish piles and human excrement, with an amazing team of equally driven volunteers, to just lying in bed for two days, staring at the ceiling.

From trying to suppress screams as we uncovered half a dozen rats immediately next to a small tent where four very young children were sleeping, and watching a little girl, perhaps 2 years old, drop her well-loved doll into the water that floods the camp, the same water which has flooded the spaces used as “public conveniences”.

To lying overwhelmed in my warm, dry, bed staring at the ceiling, feeling guilty about lying in my warm, dry, bed staring at my ceiling. But there’s something else, not despair, that’s too proactive a word, but powerlessness. I felt utterly unable to grasp what could be done to make a difference.

My visit to Dunkirk wasn’t the first time I’ve seen scenes of utter horror, I was part of one of the first film crews allowed back into hospitals in Liberia during a short break in the Ebola epidemic last year. There I witnessed a young mother needlessly die for want of a drug which costs only pounds to buy which just isn’t readily available in Liberia. As part of my work I’ve seen neighbourhoods in Namibia where HIV prevalence has reached 1 in 5 people, slums in India where disabled children hold young babies while they beg for small change and food. Each trip makes it mark, leaves a scar, but this one? This one affected me deeply.

I’ve sat with this desolation over the last few weeks and come to a dark realisation as to why the horror of what I saw has disturbed me so greatly. I realised that it’s the public, political and corporate response to the situation. Apart from the few charities and amazing grass-roots activists on the ground in the camps, no one seems to care. In each other country I’ve visited, whilst the response there has undoubtedly been too slow, not sufficient, there has been a general consensus that the situation is wrong, unacceptable. Aid agencies, businesses and political systems have mobilised and, in countries where so many have so little, people have joined together and given what they can.

But the refugee crisis in Calais and Dunkirk, the rest of Europe and further afield? You only have to read the comments below articles posted online or the articles themselves to see the horrific vitriol aimed towards these people. People, not cockroaches. People, not ISIS. Where are the businesses who would rally to give their infrastructure support in any other emergency situation? Where is the public outcry that people are being forced to live in absolute hell, having fled wars and persecution. People are living in indescribable conditions just 30 miles from the UK, a country where we have so much, but are willing to give so little. I’ve swung from anger to despondency in the last couple of weeks, mourning the lack of humanity that the European community, its politicians and businesses have shown.

Then last night (Friday 5 February) something changed. Last night I witnessed 5,000 people moved and motivated by Massive Attack’s powerful visual response to the refugee crisis. A huge visual backdrop created by Del Naja and London’s United Visual Artists group, featuring photographs from Syria and Lesvos by photographer Giles Duley, interspersed with the real facts behind one of the most devastating humanitarian crisis of our generation.

I watched one of the best gigs of my life with tears pouring down my face. Not just because the LED displays showed such tragic images, but also with relief. Here is a band who were using their stage to send a powerful apolitical message, and the audience? The audience seemed as gripped, inspired and motivated as I felt too.

The final screens featured a rousing call to action, met with huge cheers from the audience, reminding us that if we all come together we can make a difference, no one has to go hungry or live in such appalling conditions.

We can do something. I’m in. Are you?

More info

January news from Dulwich2Dunkirk

In January we provided the following support for the residents of Grande-Synthe camp

We did an aid drop of food, gas, sleeping bags and blankets and took part in the first #DunkirkCleanUp.

With your support, we provided over 3000 bananas, 800 cans of gas and 100 food parcels and other vital supplies. The Sunday clean up followed on from the excellent work our friend Rachel has been doing in Calais camp.

As part of our aid drop, we also supported Kitchen In Calais with donations of rice, spices, lentils and lots of fresh veggies including 100 cucumbers.

Led by our friends at Calais Action, we pledged our support to a campaign to highlight the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Dunkirk.

One of our co-founders, Nisha, wrote a piece about the situation in Dunkirk for popular current affairs website Little Atoms.

Fellow Dulwich Hamlet supporters, And Other Nihilists held a fundraising gig at the Montague Arms, Peckham. The event raised over £280 in support of our work.

We were really pleased to be recognised by Brixton Buzz in their end of year awards. We were mentioned along side other brilliant local campaigns such as Reclaim Brixton and the Save Cressingham Gardens.

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