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‘Wild Washerwomen’ to wash clothes for Calais refugees

A FROME woman is heading to the Calais ‘Jungle’ this month to wash clothes for refugees, and is asking local people to donate detergent at drop-ins around the town.

22 year-old Flora Thomas, along with friends Zoe and Clem – a trio dubbed the ‘Wild Washerwomen’ – have equipped a van with two washing machines, a tumble drier, and generator, and will be washing clothes for people living in the French refugee camp.

Refugee Action in Somerset East (RAISE) is holding collections for people to donate washing detergent at Your Storage Space at Unit One on Wallbridge, from 2.30pm to 4.30pm every Monday in July, and from 11am to 12.30pm this Saturday 16th.

Flora told Frome Times, “We will be providing a mobile laundry service to residents of the camp. There are so many amazing grassroots organisations on site providing food, language lessons, legal advice and much more, but there are no washing facilities in camp.

“Donations of clothes, shoes and blankets are given regularly in the camps, but trips to the local laundrette are far too expensive and unsustainable. As a result, dirty items are thrown away – even when they are in good condition.”

Flora, who moved to Frome from London last year, has visited the camp a number of times already this year.

“We are going for a few months to set up and test our pilot van, and will then return home leaving the laundrette in capable hands in Calais,” she said. “I realised the need for a laundrette on a previous visit. We have friends at the camp and the only thing they’ve asked  of us was to wash some of their clothes when we could!

“I am nervous in some ways – the demand is so high and we only have two machines, so we really need to create a fool-proof schedule to make sure everybody gets a fair deal. I have worked in a busy laundrette before, so hopefully that will help!”

As well as washing liquid and powders, RAISE also welcomes donations of clothing and blankets for refugees in Calais and Syria.

RAISE volunteer Christine Kaltoft said, “This a great story of young women setting out to do something positive to help, and it would be fantastic if local people could support them.

“It’s a brilliant initiative because it is terribly hard for refugees living in camps to wash and dry clothes, so clothing can get discarded when it still has life left in it.”

To find out more about the charity’s work go to www.raise.today