Cambridge Assessment Podcast | Volunteering in the Calais Refugee Camp

Cambridge Assessment Podcast | Volunteering in the Calais Refugee Camp



hi welcome to the Cambridge assessment podcast I'm Ashley Capaldi and I'm here to introduce a special three-part series guest hosted by Paul Ellis and Melanie done according to the UN refugee agency there are currently four million refugee children out of school one of the UN's sustainable development goals is to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promotes lifelong learning opportunities for all in this second episode we hear from Lee Ben bell Peter Johnston and Seoul Escobar from our refugee support committee who have taken their refugee support efforts outside of the workplace and into the refugee camps of Europe in a second of our podcasts in this series we are talking to three of our colleagues from Cambridge Assessment who have been volunteering their time to help with refugee Charities in Calais in this podcast sole Peter and me are going to tell us more about their experiences first of all there let's meet them start with salty I'm Sol and I work in the in assessment in Cambridge International in the languages group thank you hi I'm Li I'm working in Cambridge International as well in the assessment group as an analyst Thank You M fit well yeah so I'm Peter Johnson I also work at preemption international as an English assessment manager excellent thank you much welcome to the podcast first question very basic straightforward question but it might have a complex answer how did you become involved with volunteering in Calais it's difficult so actually I attended a lunchtime workshop the soul had arranged I recently joined Cambridge assessment I was looking for a way to I've meet new people and to use my time positively so I went along to the session with the solver deranged heard about the convoy so Kelly and yeah kind of signed up pretty much within the week to drive down there which a bit of a challenge my first time driving on the wrong side of the road is great fun we live to tell the tale in yes any p10 well Sol Sol and I were both looking for a way to involve in doing something and so we looked over what charities are in in Cambridge and able to do that and cam crack was the charity that we worked with that's the Cambridge convoy a refugee action group and yeah they just made it very very easy in the way that Li describes their so the idea that he had the notion to do it and then a week later was doing it that's pretty similar to our experience as well I think yeah I saw your instrumentalist um I guess yes yeah so basically as Pete said and we were looking for something to do and we want it to you volunteer with charity in Cambridge we started looking and googling and we came across this charity that organizes trips down to Calais with a group of people we thought that would be a great way to start volunteering because you know as Pete said they do make it very easy you sign up they assign you to a car and you go on Friday after work come back on Sunday spend two days in Calais doing whatever needs to be done basically and and after going down there the first time after coming back it was it makes such an impact on me going down there and seen with my own eyes what was happening which was nothing like what you read on the media and and so when I came back when we came back and we decided to tell people about it and work and so we arranged a Lisa at lunchtime chat I would say and and yes we put it in the internal media social media pages that we have a Jana and we invited colleagues and about 20 people came one of which was Lee and other people that came to to this chat as well where are now part of our refugee Support Committee and yeah basically we just talked about our experience going down there and how people could get involved and some people did it's great and Peter was the situation now in Calais because the jungle was dismantled in 2016 so who are the refugees okay so it's people from any place really whether it's a fleet conflicts or persecution and I thought that's us people from places like Eritrea or South Sudan or Afghanistan Syria the general groups so whereas when a jungle was going up until 2016 as you say it was all in one place now they're dispersed across parts of Calais and Dunkirk in the forests under bridges behind the industrial buildings places like that for the most part yes and basically the only support that they get its are the charity's down there and the volunteers that go there and so there are long-term volunteers that can stay from a few weeks to months and that help the most there and then there are groups of volunteers like for example this convoy group that gets together 2025 people sometimes 30 and we go for a weekend to sort of relieve the long-term volunteer so they can take a break because their work is very intense and so we go down there we sort donations we took thousands of meals we distribute food we do what needs to be done and do you have any idea how many refugees are there at any time I think last time we went down they were performing a kind of a mini sense as we may set around 2,000 if I'm correct in fact certainly the census that was done last year it's 1,300 so he's gone up to about $2,000 in basic it was about 8,000 at the peak of the jungle so that's three years ago and of course it's a bit more difficult to take out the four senses when that email so dispersed now and of course there's a quite a lot of institutional reaction against it governments along its in initiatives to get rid of the people that are there so yeah the dispersion is wider than you might think from the service yeah I think another thing is the diversity of people down there I think that's roughly around 20 different nationalities also of living in very challenging conditions and that that sort of brings its own problems sort of within the refugee community because you're you know effectively kind of living out in tents with people that you sort of didn't grow up with they have different values from your own and that can maybe caused tensions down there and so yeah into up to that as well they have a lot of resistance from police and they you know they face police brutality every week and have everything taken away from them and so for example when we go to volunteer there that every morning there's a briefing where the long-term volunteers that have been out in the field the night before will will give an update of what the situation is so they will say which locations have been targeted which communities need more support on that day so we will get everything ready to take tents to those who had their tents taken away kind of thing and so yeah so this is something that happens almost on a daily basis so a lot of the purpose of us being there is to replenish those things that have been taken away by the authorities which it sounds absurd so fed yeah as an enterprise but is but in this to be done isn't it yeah can you give us a picture of what you see when you arrive in Kelly yes oh well I guess first impressions coming off the of the Eurotunnel is a lot of fences huge fences large concrete walls sort of everywhere around the poor and then you drive sort of into Calais and it's kind of just a fairly normal seaside type of town like a it's actually a really beautiful city whatever to get to and when we've mentioned the fences in the walls it's not just that it's a straight you know the system of walls and fences it's this labyrinth the difficulty getting through those what difficult as I'm sure everybody does yeah our way through to where you end up which is yeah quaint seaside sound Calais yeah yeah and and then going from so when we arrived there we stay in a youth hostel and then when we go on the day to the to the warehouse it's kind of like out in an industrial park area so there's a few different warehouses down the road it's very quiet so you drive in it so the warehouse itself is gated there's a barrier there to obviously control people entering the site so at the very conscious of security on the site so that all of the volunteers there have a safe atmosphere where they can you know do what needs to be done for the refugees that day and yeah the kind of the warehouse itself is as as you would imagine it's a large warehouse there's there's a bit of sort of outside scrublands there's sort of obvious things like if where the kitchen there's a load of waste the waste from the kitchen goes back to the local farmers that often donate a lot of the food so yeah that's kind of yeah it's worth mentioning I think that the type of the volunteering that we do with this particular group and there are many charities that work down there so we support a few particular ones so help refugees UK with support refugee community kitchen utopia 56 all of these are all together on the same site and volunteers go to this site that were not dispersed around the city so basically most volunteers we work all together either sorting donations or cooking or chopping words or fixing tents etc normally it's the long-term volunteers that do the distribution of these goods because you need to have some sort of training to deal in these situations with the people on the ground so after a few times having been there and for example I went to distribute food but we had quite an extensive briefing beforehand to explain the situation what where people come from how to you know how to behave what to expect the first time I went to distribute for you a couple of times but the first time one of the things that hit me the most – that one of the long-term volunteers organized and it said was you know just look at them in the eyes and smile and say hi and ask them what they want to eat you know give them some sort of agency to choose what they want and it makes such a difference and just talking to people and you know hearing their stories sometimes they just want to come and have have a chat and we sit down with them and have some food at the end when we're done distributing food and they just want to talk yes I mean I saw says most people that go there for the first time probably won't go on this no exactly so just answer what Lee was saying before about what the warehouse is like so I suppose the first thing that does strike you when you get there at 9:00 a.m. on the Saturday having stayed at the youth hostel the night before is bleary-eyed people all ages ready for another hard day of work many of them been doing it for a long time but just this real sense of community is there amongst all these different groups with different nationalities just amazing really do this big warm up a few games at the start sort of starts to sound a little bit cheaty perhaps but it but there is a real sense of of community and fun and working towards a common goal and all that kind of thing and then you enter into the warehouse and it's this huge colourful place with you know it's they've tidied up the best they can from the day but it's a place of work really yeah where there's a kitchen run by these really competent you know chefs and just yeah yeah it is great and there's loud music and everyone is having fun actually yeah there's a really fun atmosphere it's it's great yeah and why is it that the police would dismantle the tents and so forth and as you said they dismantled the jungle but they allow the charities to operate there I think it's a sort of a complex question there's from my understanding the of the French government are trying to create a hostile environment down there towards refugees to try and discourage people from going to Calais but at the other sides there is basic human rights and you know the charities down there legally are allowed to distribute clothes foods essential items to the refugees so this only does seem to be like a conflict between on the one hand the government is acting in one way to try and sort of discourage refugees from being in Calais but then at the same time you know they're human beings and they have yeah whatever is like everyone else if no one if the volunteers wearing that and if the charity's wearing there too to help them out there would be nothing it's really just something kind of a perverse gray area the legalities around it yeah that as liaison status to this but do have responsibilities but they won't go beyond those responsibilities and in fact they'll make it such that and while still fulfilling those responsibilities they'll do everything they can to stop people making them do so and that's Italy yeah so they're they're are not not we volunteers going there just for the weekend because it's a very safe environment but talking to them more long-term volunteers and that there have been issues with police harassment of volunteers as well so it is they are trying to make a hostile environment for both refugees but also for volunteers you probably would have seen that there was a court case recently in in France yeah which came to a conclusion in June where because of some of this hostility that's been going on they now have to provide showers and toilets and was the other thing no Karen showers and toilets and water that's it to the refugees and so whilst they still can carry on with these same attitudes there's a basic level of humanity they do have to breed legally now what sort of stories have you heard from the refugees that you spoken to they're both about what they've been through and what they're hoping to do next and so I've talked to different groups of refugees and the times that I've been distributing food I personally didn't get a chance to talk very extensively with them but but the the stories that I did here especially the last time that I was there and distributing food and there were quite a few people that had been deported back that had spent a number of years in either Germany or the UK has started and the new lives and they in they had their asylum claim renewal denied and they were back where they had started and you could obviously tell the the disappointment and the fact that they had but there's there's such a variety of stories you know they all have the commonality of fleeing conflict persecution etc but in the journeys that we have listened to and especially also those who came to talk during the refugee week who talked about that their journey in great detail I think a lot of people are not actually aware what really goes on so I do recommend to anyone listening to this who wants to know more to also listen to that that talk that we have available I think in Calais in particular it's a place where refugees kind of end up and it's very much kind of a an end of the line and they can often be solve like a political hot potatoes in a way in that they want to go to certain countries to the UK and for people in Calais but they tend to be more problematic cases where as Seoul mentions speaking about people that have had sort of asylum rejected I think with the the sort of the EU legislation of the safe country the refugee arrived in they should be granted granted the right to stay there but for a lot of them that's you know the first place that they arriving is not net thoroughly the place there that kind of the destination that they want to be in for whatever reason maybe they've got family over in the UK so I think quite often people can be in choir sort of a state of last resort when you're in Cali and obviously you hear infrequently on the news of crossings attempts that ultimately go wrong because they are kind of at that that stage the kind of pretty end of the line tight tight place it so geographically we are the natural end point for people whose hope to being drained away from them somehow at this point in our history we still represent that hope for them and this place in particular well it hopefully reinforces some of them and if we can get the political will behind that too then maybe that's gonna keep that hope going I guess be more they have very much a bit left yeah I think it's interesting to note as well when we were talking to some of the the refugees that came to this talk and how they explained this whole notion and argument that why don't they stay in the first country in the first day for country they go to but that first safe country might you know be have already welcomed four million refugees or you know they don't have a way of to work or to have papers or they are limbo and living in refugee camps in Greece or turkey for years so of course they're gonna continue their journey I mean I am from South America I never escaped persecution and I didn't stay in the first country that I went to like keep going until I found my home and my home was here and no one ever asked me why I didn't stay the first country I came across and so obviously you know us Abdul Aziz and Maher said when we talk to them the panel's talk and they just want an education they want to work they want to be with their families they want to be safe but they also want to life and our life is not always in the first country where you're not being chased you know so yeah that's that's where they get to and when they're in Calais trying to to reach that goal and if anyone wants to find out more about how to help where should they go to I think can crack would be a great place especially for people local to Cambridge yes just for those who don't know what can crack me this is the camera trophy gia can bridge convoy refugee action group and they're a great charity in Cambridge for anyone who's local and more widely help refugees probably would be yeah yeah help refugees UK they do have a lot of initiatives not only in northern France and they do sort of oversee this warehouse that we go to help out refugee community kitchen they do deliver food they they're in London as well as northern Front and help refugees UK they also work in Greece and Lebanon so you can you can volunteer in other countries if you want to there are a lot of charities that are doing some amazing work where governments are not and for those who aren't in the UK area there's other opportunities elsewhere he goes to the very you know you an agencies are supposed to enforce yeah there's a lot of information out there yeah okay well thank you very much for telling us about your experiences and you'll be back there at some point soon but he was like a planning september's yeah we're thinking maybe we'll organize another one during the summer and the summer there are lots of people who are available so there are a lot of refugee refugees that a lot of volunteers and so this particular charity will volunteer with they try to take people at the times when volunteers are low so um yeah so we might go this time otherwise in September we'll see we just went actually before refugee week we were there a couple of weeks ago yeah thanks yeah thank you very much again thank you thank you thank you for listening to the cambridge assessment podcast you can find more on our website at www.carandtruckremotes.com just search for podcast gallery we're also on YouTube and iTunes leave us a comment wherever you're listening if you'd like to get in touch about any of our refugee support projects and we'll get back to you

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