Whilst at the SkinSincere launch party I decided to put my networking skills into practice, and delved into a conversation with the two lovely ladies behind 'Pay It Forward'. I already knew a little about this project and was so moved by the idea that I immediately stumped up the cash to enable them to be one of the launch party sponsors. What I didn't realise was that 'Pay it Forward' is but one of the many different community, and social action projects they are involved in.
Whilst chatting away about their other projects Lea, and Amanda mentioned their 'Caravans for Calais' project. This project is dedicated to sending any unused, unwanted or slightly less road worthy (but still habitable) caravans under the English Channel and into France. Both were over in Calais a few weeks ago, when the first set of caravans were delivered, and witnessed first hand the desperation of people who have fled their home lands in search of a safer existence - only to be rounded up by 'civilized' members of society, and are now 'stored' in conditions which are far worse than those we expect our animals to live in.
The caravans are being used to house medical centers, kitchens and other much needed places of shelter - enabling many different charitable, and non-profit organisations the ability to work together on a united front. So far over 20 caravans have gone down to Calais, and the aim is to reach 1,000 before Christmas.
Behind the scenes the team are working tirelessly to source the caravans, find volunteers to get them into France, fund-raise, co-ordinate with different agencies prior to arrival and whilst on the ground - not forgetting everything else in between. When talking to Lea, and Amanda I asked what is the one thing which would make a massive difference to this project, and as with most things its about a money block. Specifically having enough money for Amanda to put her life on hold, and relocate to the 'Jungle' full-time. This would enable them to have a base in the UK, and to be able to co-ordinate the effort down in Calais. So far they have raised over £8,000 for the project which is a fantastic effort - but it's just not enough to make this project efficient, and sustainable.
Currently a large portion of their time is spent going up and down the motorways, and in order to reach their goal they really need the ability to work smarter. They have a fantastic idea to help reduce their motorway time - and are appealing for people to bring the caravans from all over the UK with drivers acting as relays. Each doing a small leg of the journey, and passing over to someone else before heading home. The caravans they are sending are literally coming from all corners of the Isles, and while this just shows the wonderful generosity of the British - getting them from peoples drives to Calais is proving to be a giant hurdle. They were generously offered a static caravan for free by some lovely people in Yorkshire (pictured) - but getting it to Calais...
It seems that the refugees in Calais are becoming quite a political and journalistic minefield. One day there are pictures of terrible conditions and we are all made to feel guilty that we haven't personally rehoused at least 3 families, the next we are being told they are going to steal our jobs and make us homeless.. People have lost close friends because they have donated to the refugees, made to feel anti-British for neglecting our poor, our homeless, and our veterans... In the UK we are lucky, we live in a democratic society, which promotes freedom of speech, and expression. Therefore, it is everyone's right to spend their hard earned cash, or their time in a way which makes them feel good. Whether that is donating to strictly animal charities, or children's charities, or only in the UK... It's your choice.
Personally - I think allowing people to live in awful conditions - regardless of who they are, or where they live is simply inhumane. These ladies are passionate, have an idea, and have the gumption to run with it. They are soon to be setting up a crowdfunding website (to help fund Amanda's Jungle stint), and already have a facebook page where you can offer your time and/or money. So if you feel inclined to help those in Calais and these ladies with their Caravan project then go ahead. If it's not for you that's fine - but please remember its a personal choice.