Our Volunteer Lina and member of Social Worker Without Borders, writes a beautiful heartfelt account of her trip to Dunkirk with Help4Refugee Children.

My unique experience with ‘Help 4 refugee children’ has started at 4am in the morning while making my way from West London to South London. I had mixed feelings of tiredness, curiosity, excitement and uneasiness. I felt that why because I was not sure what waits for me today. However, smiling, friendly, sleepy and welcoming faces of other volunteers met me with such a warmth that many of my anxieties disappeared very quickly. Especially when it was accompanied with wonderful view of the sunrise, sleeping London and interesting stories told in the car on our way to Dover.

I think real challenge and unforgettable experience has started once we touched the soil of France. We were passing the old warehouses and very industrial area when we sow some men running around or hiding behind the bushes as police was approaching from the front. It just felt like different world. We all knew why those men were running toward the port and why police were chasing them, but nobody said a word in the car. It just was one of those situations then you feel useless and hopeless and nothing can be said.

The first stop was at the one of the charity warehouse where we left donations brought from London. The charity warehouse was dilapidated, but the energy, warmth and positive atmosphere in the place was magic. Volunteers working at warehouse were such a nice people. They told us what donations are needed for coming months and how we can help them. While we were dropping the donations, another group of us (in second car) went to see the refugee family they were building a freidnship for months. Once both visits were over and little goody begs for children were packed with input from Homeopath organization, we made our way to the ‘camp’.

First of all, that place cannot be called camp. People live in the woods. There were no toilets, or they were somewhere really far away. There was a water tank with some tabs, for considerable amount of people. Mostly young men just were dispersed around some fields and woods. It was just such a hard view to see. We parked the cars and went for the small field just by the main path. Some kids started running to the volunteers as they already knew who we were and why we are here. Some kids hugged volunteers who they recognised form the last time. The smiles and excitement on children’s faces were priceless. I felt I bit shaken by all environment and situation, but I told to myself that I am here to have a good time with kids and to make their afternoon as fun as possible, therefore, I just took a deep berth and went ahead with a big smile.

It was wonderful few hours. We draw masks, blew the balloons, painted canvasses and t-shirts. Then we moved to face painting and sports games. Kids were so excited; they joined all activities with such a willingness. They just were kids again, kids without that constant worry of what will be next with their lives. They just were kids who were allowed to be kids at least for few hours. I know, that it is very little we can do for them and that few hours of playing will not make any real difference in their life. However, being able to bring back a childhood, at least for few hours, for those who got it stolen by war and conflicts in the world, it felt simply good and right. No child should become an adult against his/her own will and too early; and those kids didn’t have any choice or say, it just happened to them.

Another wonderful thing which was happening in the parallel with kids’ games was ‘mothers corner’. We had Hana and nail polishers. Therefore, some of the volunteers actually spent time with the ladies painting Hana and doing their nails. It was so lovely to see how from very tired and worried faces of mothers, those faces, for few minutes, changed into happy and relaxed faces of women. This small change and a small retreat from the constant profound role of the refugee mother, who not only fights for her life but her children, was so needed for those ladies.

I had an incredible honour to have a change to speak with one of the mothers. She told me her and her family story. She was a teacher with people with autistic spectrum disorder back in Iraq. She and her husband had a nice and big house with garden. Her husband was a journalist. One day he wrote an article which was quite controversial and governing authorities started to persecute him until he had to flee the country. She and her children were at danger and they followed her husband not long after. Unfortunately, she never met her husband again. She doesn’t know where he is or what has happened to him. So two months ago she ended up in this refugee camp in France. She does not know what to do next. She just knows that she wants her kids to be safe and be able to live normal life. It was a heart breaking story and I really felt for this woman. We said warm goodbye to each other and she said with smile on her face that she hopes she will not meet me again as she hopes she will not be here

We said warm goodbye to each other and she said with smile on her face that she hopes she will not meet me again as she hopes she will not be here next time I will come to visit.

We got back in the cars and made our way to Calais to have dinner before the ferry. All 25mins everyone in the car was silent and deep in their thoughts… It was silence which meant thousands of words and feelings; and it was so warm and comforting. It was an experience which made me, as a person, to go back to my own basic core values and rethink the meaning of mine own life. It made me to rethink what is important for me in my life and what is just small trifles which will be forgotten in a few days. Also, it made me one more time to think how much I have in my life and how lucky I am to have it; and how easy to lose it all…

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Farah, our teacher volunteer writes about her experience volunteering with Help4Refugee Children.

Whether it be in a London based classroom or out in the Dunkirk refugee camp (a loosely used term), the children exhibit the exact same innocence, curiosity, hesitations and joy. Despite the atrocities of the war torn countries they have fled and the horrors they must have witnessed, their innocence remains uncorrupted. Irrespective of where they are from, the children are our future.

We set up our workshop in the middle of the trees – paints, canvasses, face masks, balloons and bubbles. The children become engrossed in all the colours, textures, smells and sounds; clearly valuing the opportunity and created stunning art, expressive of their emotional state. Some worked meticulously, while others applied random colours but all enjoyed the outcomes.

A three year old boy chose the dinosaur stencil and looked at me questioningly. “That’s a dinosaur”, I informed. “It goes roarrr”. He smiled and exclaimed “dinosaur!” and “roarrr!” repeatedly with each splash of red colour. He had learned and associated something I had taught him, and that was magical.

For some time, the children are transformed away from the squalor and it is easy to mistake them for a happy class enjoying outdoor activities in a park.

Farewells are the hardest for me, though the children and their parents always bid me adieu with bright smiles, warm hugs and an invitation to return again soon.

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Police Brutality Against Children: as young as a few months old

Help4Refugee Children traveled yesterday to see children in Northern France who have been not only brutally displaced from their home countries by war and terrorism but also shunned by every single European Government and brutalised and in some cases even beaten by police who are “just doing their jobs”. We saw a three-year-old with a baton bruise in his face. Every week the police go to the camp and dismantle everything which has been put up, to ensure that, nothing permanent is erected and to prevent the formation of a camp; we heard the heart-breaking story of a mother who when the police came had refused to leave her tent about to be bulldozed and told the police “no, I am not leaving, my baby is inside sleeping” the police officer then said “ok” and took out his pepper spray and sprayed her and the occupants of the tent.

There were many, many families, some of them had recently arrived and some had returned to gather following the destruction of the Jungle and the tragic and devastating fire in Dunkirk. The French authorities have played a sinister trick and removed the Jungle, making people believe that the problem is no longer there. However, this is a lie… refugees have not vanished into thin air; They are there, and they live in much worse conditions than we have ever seen.

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We prepared and distributed 250 food packs, containing fruit, biscuits, water and bread plus an additional 30 for the smaller children with the support of Just Shelter who also offered their experience and support during the distribution which was seamless and above all, carried out in the most dignified way possible. We also had a limited supply of clothing and child care essentials which were given to the mothers.

We had planned creative arts therapeutic activities for the children, but when we set up, many adults asked to take part! So, we set up another station where adults got their creative groove on and produced stunning works!

For more pictures, please visit our Facebook page.

We also delivered almost 100 packs with essential survival items for the unaccompanied minors, donated by the Separated Child Foundation, supplied essentials requested by the Refugee Youth Service and Women Centre. We provided food donations for the RCK Kitchen and essential clothing items provided by Stand Up to Racism – South London. Furthermore, this trip was made possible by the funding of a van by the NUT, who collaborated with Stand Up to Racism by donating funds for the Euro-tunnel crossing and fuel.

This trip was only possible by the amazing collaboration of volunteers and organisations whose aims and focus were to help those most in need.

With special thanks to all of our volunteers and a warm mention of:

Heloise Heau who ran half a marathon in Paris to raise money towards this trip with which we supported the RCK Kitchen, Refugee Youth Service and Women’s Centre.
One person’s vision to provide “something for refugees” at the end of Ramadan – Joao Paqueno who was sponsored by Soledad Thompson to fund towards the food packs.

Thank you and thank you for reading our newsletter to all our supporters.

In Solidarity

The Help4Refugee Children Team

 

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He Was Not Deported

Dear Supporters

We bring some good news and also a testament that power really can belong to the people. You may remember a recent petition we sent you asking you to sign to oppose the deportation of the dad of an 8 month old baby, which threatened to leave behind a young mother and child in France, alone and in a desperate plea to reach the U.K.

In a protest organised by Collectif La Chapelle Debout and supported by:

Mouvement Ni Putes Ni Soumises
KÂLÎ
Dunkirk / Dunkerque Refugee Women’s Centre
Help4Refugee Children
SOS Racisme
Collectif citoyens Maubeuge for their support.

Protesters raised awareness in the airport, on the day the dad was due to be deported and informed passengers of the situation and asked them to speak out and oppose the deportation on their flight. Passengers, once on the plane, refused to sit down and eventually he was removed from the flight.

The future of this young couple remains uncertain, however they now get another chance to bring their appeal to a new judge who will decide if he can stay in France.

Thank you to all of those who have supported this cause and continue to advocate for and support refugees.

We would also like to mention a special thank you to the Dunkirk / Dunkerque Refugee Women’s Centre for their continued outstanding work in Northern France.

In Solidarity

The Help4Refugee Children Team

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Father of 8-month old baby risks deportation to Afghanistan

Dear Supporters

Help4RefugeeChildren is raising awareness for a family we have been working closely with for two years. Maryam and her husband came to Calais to escape the terror and oppression of their own countries. One month ago Maryam’s husband, who is from Afghanistan was arrested and detained. When Maryam, who is from Iran, visited her husband with their 8 month old baby, who was born in Calais, she was herself detained by the French authorities and had her baby taken away from her. Eventually Maryam was released and her baby returned to her.

Maryam’s husband now faces deportation to Afghanistan from France and their family is at risk of being torn apart. Please sign our petition to reunite Maryam and her baby with their husband.

The behaviour of the French authorities towards Maryam and her family has been absolutely scandalous. Maryam should never have been detained and separated from her baby.

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We first met Maryam, when she was expecting her baby in ‘The old Jungle’ in Calais. This is an image (right) is of a later afternoon we spent in the company of Maryam and her warm family after the demolition that camp. Here we were in Dunkirk, were we also delivered among general aid such as food and clothing, lights and power banks to her and the families in then living in Dunkirk.

By sending Maryam’s husband to Afghanistan, the French authorities are putting his life at risk. Afghanistan is a country deemed high risk and one EU citizens are recommended not to travel to. There have been countless terrorist attacks throughout Afghanistan, wounding and killing many.

Travel to all areas of Afghanistan remains unsafe due to the ongoing risk of kidnapping, hostage taking, military combat operations, landmines, banditry, armed rivalry between political and tribal groups, militant attacks, direct and indirect fire, suicide bombings, and insurgent attacks, including attacks using vehicle-borne or other improvised explosive devices (IED). Attacks may also target official Afghan and U.S. government convoys and compounds, foreign embassies, military installations, commercial entities, restaurants, hotels, airports, and educational centres.

There is a very real threat to the safety of Maryam’s husband if he is deported to Afghanistan and for this reason he should be offered refuge within Europe, he should not be sent back to a dangerous country.

Germany has paused its own deportation flights to Afghanistan and other European countries are considering the same move. British deportations resumed last year after the Court of Appeal ruled in favour of Theresa May, then the Home Secretary, and declared Kabul safe for the return of refugees. However, despite the British Government declaring Kabul “safe” for asylum seekers, it does not apply the same designation for its own official staff. Government employees are kept inside the heavily guarded safe “green zone” whenever possible, being ferried around under armed guard if they are required to leave. The three-mile journey from British offices to Kabul airport is frequently made by helicopter because of dangers along the road. These double standards are completely unjust. Is the safety of British Government officials of greater importance than the safety of refugees?

We demand that the UK and France defer deportations until the situation in these countries improves.

PLEASE SIGN THE PETITION TO OPPOSE THIS CRUEL AND UNNECESSARY DEPORTATION HERE.

In Solidarity

The Help4Refugee Children Team

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Summary from our June Trip to Calais & Dunkirk

Saturday June 3, 2017; some of our volunteers visited Calais to provide aid to the refugees who had been stranded after the Dunkirk camp burnt down.

Fruits, water, toiletries, nappies and milk was distributed. Arrival packs donated by The Separated Child Foundation which contained a towel, socks and underwear, warm clothing, a waterproof kackets, gloves, a hat and a scarf and other essentials were given to the warehouse.

For refugees who lack the most basic necessities of life, this arrival pack makes an important difference to their everyday life.

In the afternoon, we met with some of the children and family we knew from the Calais Jungle and who now live crammed behind an industrial estate in a small metal shipping container. The conditions they live in are so precarious and unsafe! Yet, those mothers are striving to keep their babies safe.

We played with the children and ran some arts and crafts workshop. These activities are a breath of fresh air for those children who have been robbed of their childhood. Their smiles are priceless and remind us why we got involved in the first place.

We will be travelling to Calais again on June 25th, on a trip in collaboration with Stand Up To Racism – South London to deliver essential aid. As part of this trip, we will also be arranging collections to be taken to the Care4Calais warehouse in Calais. For more information and to arrange a drop off, please email us: help4refugeechildren@gmail.com.

If you’d like to support our trip, you can do so here: https://www.gofundme.com/4refugeechildren

In solidarity

The Help4Refugee Children Team

These are some photos from our trip below.

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THE TWILIGHT KINGDOM

We would like to thank Steph Goodger for kindly fundraising for us.

Please take a look at her powerful paintings representing the Calais Refugee Camp, otherwise known as the Jungle during the demolitions.  You can find more about the work we did in the camp during this time, by reading our report here.

This collection of paintings has a tremendous significance for us and we hope the money raised will go a long way in providing relief to women and children in the Dunkirk Refugee Champ

THE TWILIGHT KINGDOM
7 Signed limited edition prints by Steph Goodger
All proceeds towards the Help4Refugee Children & Women Dunkirk appeal
Giclée prints by Steph Goodger Atelier are available at SYSON in a range of sizes and are priced between £42-£130.

http://www.sysongallery.com/

These are 7 signed limited edition giclée prints on archival rag paper by Steph Goodger, taken from a series of oil paintings the artist recently completed of the Calais Jungle. The title of the series, The Twilight Kingdom, is taken from TS Eliot’s poem, The Hollow Man. Eliot describes it as a kind of limbo place; as twilight is a kind of limbo time. Goodger has made a series of paintings based on the last week of the life of the jungle before its dramatic closure in late October, 2016. This action left the population, already weakened by war and human rights violations, left adrift in what the artist describes as a ‘maze of administration’ only to reappear on the streets of Calais or Dunkirk, sleeping rough months later. The artist is donating all the proceeds of these print sales to the Help4Refugee Children appeal for Women and Children to buy food, clothing, sleeping bags, tents, basic toiletries and sanitary products.

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Visiting Dunkirk This April

We are going back to Dunkirk this April to run workshops with the children in the Children’s Center and also with women in the Women’s Center. During this trip, we will also be bringing 200 non-electrical lights and batteries to the Dunkirk Refugee Camp on a project made possible by a grant received from Donate4Refugees.

17498824_1872709712952105_8395803176780825198_nThe shelters in Dunkirk are dark, even in the day, these lights have been requested by the people of the camp, to be able to restore a level of normality in their lives. We hope these lights will have a positive impact in the lives of refugees and will keep you posted with an update soon.

 

We will also deliver aid to the camp as well as food to the kitchens.

All the money received from this date will be spent in this trip, the more we receive the more aid we will be able to take over with us and provide to support the most vulnerable.

Please donate what you can and help us make this trip have a positive impact in the lives of refugees.

https://www.gofundme.com/4refugeechildren

Help us collect

Apart from taking essential donations and for which we are still collecting ( sleeping bags,
thermal gloves, small & medium waterproof men’s jackets, emergency Blankets, flapjacks…) we are also collecting the items below for the children and team at Dunkirk Refugee Children’s Centre

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Please contact us to arrange drop offs : help4refugeechildren@gmail.com

A fun night out did you say?

Last but not least, don’t forget about our comedy fundraiser this Wednesday! We look forward to seeing as many of you there as possible. More details here.

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March with us to show solidarity with refugees on 18/03

March Against Racism: Refugees Welcome Bloc

Refugees have had an increasingly tough time in recent months from the UK and other European Governments. From the brutal demolition of the Calais Jungle, to the broken promise of bringing 3,000 refugee children into the country, refugees are being abandoned by Britain and Europe to destitution, drowning and exploitation.

As part of the UN Anti-Racism Day and following the rise of racist attacks, islamophobia and hate crime, Help4Refugee children and many other organisations will stand up to racism and shout loud and clear that no human is illegal and refugees are welcome in the UK.

Join us on the 18th March at 11.30 am at All Souls Church, Langham Place.

We will march for our children, for a better world, for equality and dignity for all. That day will be a first step in the right direction.

Join us in saying YES to a world where refugees and migrants are safe and welcome!

For more information: https://www.facebook.com/events/780104822140775/

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Enact Lord Dubs Amendment Now! #DUBSNOW Demonstration.

JOIN US!

On February 8 2017, the UK Government backtracked on a pledge to take Syrian child refugees.

Just hours before the final vote on the triggering of Article 50 the government quietly announced it would allow just 350 unaccompanied Syrian children to come to the UK, thousands short of the figure suggested by government sources last year.

It is shameful that our government and other powerful authorities around the world are not doing more to help unaccompanied, vulnerable child refugees. It is shameful and sad that these children do not have a home and little to no sense of belonging. There is a shocking lack of urgency in the government’s response that leaves young children forced to continue living in intolerable conditions. We must make a stand and unite against this, its inhumane.

Children in refugee camps in Europe, such as Dunkirk in Northern France have been facing life alone as they’re abandoned and forgotten about by probably a large proportion of the world. Many of the children from the Calais camp were lured out of the camp with the promise of a better life in the UK, today they remain in France and how that promise has been broken. They remain without any hope for family re-unification here in the UK.

These children are fighting an up-hill battle that will consequently serve them with no happy ending. MSF revelaed this week that, in the first 6 weeks of 2017, 1300 unaccompanied children and teenagers have braved the central alone.

These innocent refugee children are being treated disgustingly, the heart-wrenching thing is, is that many are left with such traumatic flashbacks; their past is constantly haunting them. Their past experiences are leaving them damaged for life, torn inside, confused and most of all, helpless.

All the these children want and strive for security, for a better tomorrow, for their family to appear. Yet it is starkly the opposite, their reality and foreseeable future appears far from bright.

We demand that the Dubs Amendment is Enacted Now, we will not rest until every last child is brought to safety.

JOIN US

In Solidarity

Help4refugee Children

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