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Visit to Refugee Community Kitchen in Calais

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THREE local people have been seeing at first hand what life is like for refugees in Calais.

Members of the RAISE (Refugee Acton in Somerset East) group in Frome –  Lenka,  Bev, Azeema and Glen – took ‘a challenging and uplifting trip’ to Calais to work in the refugee community kitchen (RCK). 

The group report, “The RCK is a very special place, full of amazing volunteers from 18-year-old students to 70-year-old parishioners, of all different nationalities, that provide approximately 1,500 hot meals every single day of the year to displaced people who have left their homeland and are living in inhumane conditions.  

“It was started by four friends in 2015. They could no longer stand seeing the tens of thousands of refugees, fleeing war and oppression and risking everything to get to what they anticipated would be a sanctuary. Since then, Steve (event organiser), Paula (doula), Sam (chef) and Jane (activist) have ensured that with the help of 17,900 volunteers, 45,000 desperate people have been helped and 2,637,500 meals have been produced. They are even providing assistance to refugees in London and Edinburgh.

“The ladies got stuck in from 9.30am to a buzzing kitchen with the energy of people with a determined purpose, wanting to do their bit, everyone just mucks in and peels, chops, cooks some amazing fresh food; curries, rice, salads, sweet black tea. There was lots of laughter, shared moments of sadness, stories and experiences discussed. 

“Around 2.30 every day, the food is packed ready to be dispatched to a variety of sites, where refugees quickly gather to enjoy it with grateful, beaming smiles. Such good quality food ensures they get a reasonable level of nutrition, sustaining their immune system and in a great atmosphere.

“Meanwhile, Glen, who has been many times before, used his special skills as a children’s entertainer to lift the children’s spirits with his magic tricks, karaoke and balloon modelling.  He went with ‘Project Play’ to various sites where there are families with children, as well as unaccompanied minors. They all want him to come back and see them again. 

“Everyone’s skills are used; a nurse went out with the first aid van, drivers needed, there’s a wood yard, clothes store, the women’s centre for families and children; all the different groups providing services meet up for lunch at RCK. You can do as little or as much as you want. The long term volunteers are really lovely and grateful for any time you can spare.

“RCK are providing a basic need with solidarity, social support and a safe space to eat together for refugees from all different places and religions. 

“The odds may seem overwhelming, but ‘doing our bit’ is all we can do.

“If you are interested in volunteering this is their website www.refugee communitykitchen.com

“RCK is one of the groups RAISE support through donations. RAISE have a manned collection point for clothes, shoes, sleeping bags, etc. every Monday at the Cheese and Grain cafe 12-2. For more info visit www.raise.today or drop by for a chat.”

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