Thursday, September 24, 2015

Local responses to the refugee crisis

Artists at local studios Arthub collected a large
haul for CalAid at the beginning of September

Despite previous and ongoing news of refugees drowning in their thousands, it was the image of yet another child's death on September 2nd that prompted hundreds of people into action. Londoners' proximity to Calais has resulted in efforts focussed on helping refugees in the two camps there.

Before then, CalAid had already been organising to provide relief and shift public opinion, and its growing network of volunteers were ready to receive donations at various drop-off points, the nearest being in Dalston. Close to the situation on the ground, they have been able to advise on what is needed – and warn against people dropping donations directly to Calais. Their next drop to Calais is October 4th – check their Facebook page or Twitter for latest info.

But rather than go to Dalston, you can now drop off to CalAid locally. Some Lewisham councillors set up Lewisham for Refugees on 3rd September, and arranged for drop-off points in local libraries and other locations across the borough. In Deptford you can leave stuff at the Deptford Lounge and at MP Vicky Foxcroft's office at 82 Tanner's Hill, London, SE8 4PN (10am-4pm Mon-Fri).

Meanwhile, local artists in Creekside responded by organising a speedy collection for CalAid at their studios in Arthub, and two Crossfields residents, Sylvia and Amanda, set up separate initiatives in association with other organisations already working in Calais.

Sylvia's group is Calais in October, based at the Laban Centre where she works. Heading to Calais on 17th October with donations of both materials and "their time", the delegation also intends to provide workshops in traditional Middle Eastern dances for people in the camps, working alongside Music Against Borders. Their creative response is in recognition of "the importance of creativity and culture in empowering people disenfranchised by war".

Calais in October are receiving donations at the Laban Building in Office 1 (or leave with Reception for the attention of Sylvia Ferreira) and are requesting the following:

• Tents, Sleeping Bags, Blankets, Camp beds, Roll mats, Canvas sheets
• Men’s: Socks, Waterproofs, Jackets/Coats, Trainers and Boots
• Pans, Pots, Grills, Cooking utensils, Plastic cups, Mugs, Plates, Bowls, Cutlery
• Mobile phones and the Chargers (Unlocked)
• Plug adaptors (UK -> continental, for UK phone chargers, etc)
• LED wind up lanterns
• Wind up Radios
• Basic Learning books (different languages)
• Instruments (for Music Against Borders project)
• Money – via CalaisDonation to buy food and hygiene products

Music Against Borders have a musical instrument donation programme and will be taking mostly drums, guitars, percussive (and children's) instruments and running music workshops in Calais from 18th October. See here for more info on how to donate your unused instruments – or drop them off at the Laban.

Amanda's group is Refugee Relief 2015, created among friends on Facebook. They are heading to Calais on 7th November and have have obtained large material donations from Robert Dyas, Decathlon and Waitrose, and are also collecting individually in their workplaces (so no local drop-off point, but they could pick up from you nearer the time if you join the group). They also have a Just Giving page to donate cash to.

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