Riverford veg man and lady, Ged and Susie Campbell, recently travelled to Calais loaded with Riverford veg to help a community kitchen for the refugees. The couple run the Southwark territory in London. We wanted to share Susie’s story:
Ged and I have a friend called Steve who is setting up a Refugee Community Kitchen with a few other friends in Calais. They asked for help from any friends that have contacts within the catering and food industry. I asked if they wanted fresh organic veg, and of course he said yes please!
We caught the Eurotunnel to Calais and the first thing we noticed was the vast amount of razor wire everywhere, what a welcome! We arrived at the warehouse around lunchtime and unloaded half a ton of fresh root veg including potatoes, carrots, swede, parsnips, onions, beetroot and a tray full of garlic. I also had a bag of veg peelers, loads of stock cubes and stock pots, brown sugar, olive oil, herbs and spices, socks and hats, snacks and a few toiletries. The garlic was instantly whisked off to treat people with infections as they don’t have antibiotic pills.
Steve showed us around and introduced us to some of the volunteers. The enormity of the operation hit us. The huge scale of sorting through donations so they are ready to hand out to those who need them most was overwhelming.
Unfortunately, half the warehouse was taken up with bin bags full of clothes that cannot be used because they are inappropriate for the people and conditions. There were skimpy girls tops, skirts, dirty underwear (yes really), stilettoes, and too many kids clothes. It all needs to be brought back to the UK and sold (Cash for Clothes will give 40p per kilo). What they really need is wind up lanterns and torches to avoid candle fires in the tents at the camp known as the ‘Jungle’. Also, with the wet weather they need winter footwear, not trainers.
We visited the camp and wandered about for half an hour or so. We helped by sorting firewood and folding a few tarps into piles. There are makeshift shelters and tents in ruins all over the place. The sun was out and people were building new shelters with pallets. The ground is very muddy and uneven with concrete boulders – not a place to be walking about after dark. Litter is everywhere and the toilets stink; the idea of having to live here for longer than a weekend is unimaginable.
The Afghans had organised the main drag with a few shops, food stalls and even a barbers. There weren’t many women about but we went to the family centre and handed out the rest of our snacks to whoever was around. My fear is that in a few weeks, or even days, the weather will get colder and these people will have no medical supplies to heal their ailments. Coughs, colds, flu, infections, sick children, sore feet and trauma paired with not knowing how long you have to stay here would be enough to kill anyone’s spirit.
Back at the aid warehouse Steve and his team were fixing shelving for the thousands of tinned food donations; they’ve received rice, tea bags, pulses, salt and various other dried food. We helped sort through tins to make it easier to make up food parcels to take to camp. Bags were being packed with oil, tinned tomatoes, onion, salt and a few other items to be taken to camp the next day.
Our veg will be cooked and the nourishing hot meals will be served out of a van in the Jungle as soon as they are ready. I hope we can do another van load of Riverford produce before Christmas.