Back in June 2017, I visited the Refugee Kitchens Calais, with Liz Needham of STAR (St Albans For refugees) with a car full of food donations in time for Eid ul fitr.
Our journey started, the day before, loading up the estate, with donations collected from AL Bayyinah School. My day started with my Sehri, at around 4am, the start of my fast, as we were still in Ramadan. Liz picked me up around 6am and stared our long drive down to Folkstone to catch the Eurotunnel. By 10am we had arrived in Calais, a few miles in and we started young men, hurrying across busy motorways, making their way to the Ferry Terminals looking for a better life in the UK.
A few miles later we arrived in a unassuming industrial estate, we drove to the end of the road, and was waved down by a long haired man, who questioned our reason for being there. Liz was a known person to them, so we were waved in, and directed an parking space.
Within minutes the boot was opened and and a army of volunteers had emptied the car and stacked the food accordingly.
I spent the first ten minutes in silence as I saw the magnitude of the operation, the mass of volunteers and that it was not food they supported the refugees with. One hanger was for food, the other two were for supplies, clothes, bedding, shoes and items we take for granted, plates, belts, cups and torches.
After my silent tour, i was led to the kitchen, where 20 people in blue plastic aprons were busy chopping, dicing and peeling vegetables of all kinds. For the next 3 hours I joined them. Half way through the 8th box of onions, Janie - one of the co founders came running in form the yard, and in a loud ecstatic voice declared that EID has been announced for Sunday by the Local Mosque, so we better make the food great.
A few more people had joined the kitchen, the activity had become more pronounced, with a buzz of light chatter everyone was in high spirits. I worked on a table with a middle aged lady from Northern France, two young Brazilian girls, who had been living on site for two weeks, a couple from Cornwall who had taken a week of work to come and do what they can.
By 4pm the rice had been cooked, the veg was looking good, and the fruit and dates were packed. The RKC was expecting to feed around 800 people that evening.
As the food was being packed, a request for shoes and clothes was being sorted. The delivery was just about to start as we left for home.
The volunteers would still stay one, do this over and over, to help people they would never see and refuges that have been forgotten by the media and the world over. This was an army of volunteers helping the forgotten members of the Calais community.
To find out more about Refugee Kitchen Calais click here