Saturday, August 29, 2015

Photos and story about the Calais Refugees Jungle Camp August 2015

Calais Refugee Jungle Camp

The Calais Refugees Jungle Camp is an encampment in Calais where thousands of refugees are currently residing.  The refugees are from countries as far away as Syria, Afghanistan, Kurdish Iraq, Sudan, Eritrea and Ethiopia. These refugees have escaped danger in their home countries and fled to Europe to find a new home in which they can secure a safe future for themselves and their families

After weeks of shouting at the television, complaining against the inaction of the politicians to find a solution to the refugee crisis in Calais, and annoyed with the abusive rhetoric spewing from the orifices of rent-a-mouth news columnists, my wife and I decided we should get in contact with the local charitable associations in Calais and find out what out what we could do to help.  I journeyed down to Calais from Ormskirk in August and spent ten days volunteering on the ground.  While in the Jungle, I was aware that this, for the many people taking refuge in the camp, was a place they considered home, albeit temporarily, and I was therefore reticent about filming in the environ.  Before using my camera, I asked and received permission from the subjects in the photos.  Click here to see the photo albums in the Calais Refugee Jungle Camp collection on Flickr.

Calais - people to people - Solidarity - Action from the UK

If you want to donate food, clothes, money or volunterer your time to help the men, women, boys and girls in the Calais Refugee Jungle Camp, please join the Facebook group Calais - People to People Solidarity - Action from UK

These men, women and children have fled from war zones, dictatorship, famine and fear.  Yet, this as far as the vast majority of those in the camp will get in the foreseeable future.  None have immigration papers, few are on the track to receiving Asylum in France and the British authorities are spending millions of Euros building defences to keep them out of the UK. The refugees are stuck in limbo; no country wants them and the French and UK authorities don't know what to do with them. 

This is not a Refugee Camp in the proper sense of the term.  There is no Oxfam, no Red Cross, no Red Cresent and no UNHCR. There is no governmental agency providing shelter and healthcare.  There is no formalised food or clothing rationing system, no formal education for the children in the camp.  There are no entry and exit controls.  There are no child safety protocols in place to protect the children living in the camp.  There are no protocols in place to protect the women in the camp from sexploitation.  The men in the camp, who once enjoyed useful occupation, are now idle and desolate, unable to work and unable to provide for their families.

However, life goes on.  Everone struggles in the camp to find food, keep warm and dry and stay clean and healthy.  There are three local charitable associations doing what they can to provide food, clothing and materials to build shelters.  Foreign charitable donations of clothing and food are starting to flow to these associations, but the local volunteers, many of whom are elderly, are worn out by their valiant efforts.  These volunteers are overwhelmed by the needs of the refugees in the camp.  They have little or no support from government.  There is no central administration and no formal infrastructure to ensure sufficient funding of basic services and no transparent and equitable needs based plan to ensure a just distribution of food, shelter and clothing.  The minor wounds and basic healthcare needs of the refugees on the camp are catered for by the voluntary organisation Medicines Du Monde (Doctors of the World). This group
desperately requires more funds and materials to maintain the service level it currently provides.  I heard tell on the camp that the Medicines Du Monde service is being curtailed due to a lack of funds come September 2015.  This will be a tremendous loss to those who need emergency healthcare on the camp.

This refugee crisis deserves the full attention of the UK and French governments and the EU in order to allocate sufficient resources to deal effectively with the needs of these refugees.

Once again, if you want to donate food, clothes, money or volunterer your time to help the men, women, boys and girls in the Calais Refugee Jungle Camp, please join the Facebook group Calais - People to People Solidarity - Action from UK

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Saturday, August 08, 2015

Ormskirk Knights of Saint Columba Collect Spectacles for the Giving Sight To Africa Appeal

Ormskirk Council 64 of the Knights of Saint Columba

The Ormskirk Council of the Knights of Saint Columba are pictured here with their glasses collection box at Saint Anne’s Church in Ormskirk, West Lancashire.

(Pictured left to right: Tony Gill, Mark Condon, Jim Holland, Matthew Wright, Don McGair)

The idea for the glasses collection box came from long standing Knight and St. Anne’s parishioner Jim Holland. He said “If you wear glasses like me, you are bound to have old pairs of glasses around the house, why not put them to good use?” One batch of dozens of pairs of glasses donated by parishioners has already been passed onto Specsavers Opticians as part of their Vision Aid Overseas appeal: “Giving sight to Africa”.

The Ophthalmic Director Neil Pearson and Retail Director Lieza Albiston at the Ormskirk Specsavers Opticians are reportedly delighted with both the efforts of the Knights of Saint Columba and the generosity of the Saint Anne’s parishioners, which all go towards supporting such a marvellous campaign.

The old or unwanted spectacles collected by the Knights of Saint Columba are passed to Specsavers and recycled by Vision Aid Overseas, a charity which specialises in providing eye care for those in poverty-stricken countries around the world. The money made from recycling the glasses is used to fund the charity work of Vision Aid Overseas. Since its inception in 1987, the UK-based charity has helped more than one million people in the developing world.

About the Knights of Saint Columba. The Knights of Saint Columba is a Catholic fraternal service organisation. Founded in Glasgow in 1919, it is named in honour of Saint Columba, a Christian missionary from Ireland who helped to introduce Christianity to people in Northern Britain.

Ormskirk Knights of Saint Columba with Archbishop Malcolm McMahon July 2015
The KSC is dedicated to the principles of Charity, Unity and Fraternity and has more than 4,000 members in over 300 Councils across England, Scotland and Wales. The Ormskirk Council of the KSC was founded by Squire Francis Nicholas Blundell in 1923.

More information

Knights of Saint Columba:

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Thursday, February 26, 2015

The Ormskirk Has Got The Edge support video - Three years on from the Mary Portas Pilot town bid.

The Ormskirk Has Got The Edge video, first produced in 2012, has been updated with subtitles for the hearing impaired and for speakers of English as a foreign language.

I originally filmed this video back in March 2012.  It was a week before the deadline to submit the bid proposal to the Portas Pilot scheme and the video was originally filmed to form part of the bid proposal.  More on that later!  The video was shot very quickly and came together thanks to the support and help of it's many contributors.

Three years on and I am in the process of adding subtitles to all the travel videos, holiday video diaries, community stories and interviews on my Life In Another Town YouTube channel.  While typing the transcription of the dialogue in the video and repeatedly having to watch the video again and again, it caused me to think back to that time and contemplate where we are now, three years later.  Now the shouting and fanfare has died down, what has been achieved?