Story by Carrie Hedderwick | Photo by Fran Belbin
The violent wars in Syria, Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan and several other Middle Eastern and African countries have given rise to huge numbers of refugees, many of whom have ended up in squalid camps on the French coast, in Greece and in neighbouring countries to the war torn areas. UK government policy has been inadequate and inhumane but the responses of ordinary people to this humanitarian crisis have been heartwarming and Sheffield has been playing its part.
Local resident Fran Belbin made several visits to the Calais camp with fellow activists before it was demolished by the French authorities and is now involved with setting up a Burngreave base for collecting donations for refugees in France, Greece and Syria. Refugees from the Calais camp have been dispersed to many small unofficial camps as well as accommodation centres run by the French government. With winter upon us there is a desperate need for warm clothing, blankets, tents and food.
At the donations centre volunteers are involved with sorting and packing donated items to send out to where they are most needed. Although it has only been open for a couple of weeks, Fran says: “About 20 folk from Burngreave have already come forward to help and the bags of donated items are piling up nicely!” One of the volunteers, Caroline Norman, teaches English to speakers of other languages, and is very proud of her ESOL class who decided to work together to donate a large number of warm blankets.
As Caroline said, “It is usually those who have the least who give the most.” If you could spare some time to help out once or twice a week, contact Fran firstname.lastname@example.org, call 07958 559 088 or join the Facebook group Sheffield Donations for Refugees. If you would like to donate items,the group is in the process of setting up collection points around the area. Items can be dropped in to Pitsmoor Adventure Playground and more collection points will be announced soon. Most needed are tents, blankets, adult male clothes in small and medium sizes, socks, gloves and trainers. All items are welcome however, as whateveris not useful in the camps will be donated to people in need in Sheffield, or sold to raise funds for transporting the donations.