‘We will keep on going back as long as people need our help’

From left, Jacob Kennard, Gavin Moon, Ian Doyle and Sarah Talboys-Smith with Shanon Rees and Rodney Watson at the front
 at the Southsea Village in Palmerston Road Picture: Habibur Rahman

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WE WILL not stop distributing aid to support refugees and migrants who are living in desperation.

That’s the pledge given by a selfless Portsmouth team who sailed to Calais to support people living in terrible conditions.

Refugees at Calais hoping to get to Britain are given food donations Picture: Adam Gibson

Refugees at Calais hoping to get to Britain are given food donations Picture: Adam Gibson

As previously reported in The News, communities across the region donated various items to help those seeking new life in Europe.

And throughout the duration of the trip, more than £3,000 was donated.

Matt Sinden, 33, of Fratton, one of the organisers, says he is overwhelmed by the support and hopes to sail out every weekend for as long as the donations last.

He said: ‘The experience has been surreal.

‘I’m incredibly moved by the number of people who are still willing to support.

‘It’s just breathtaking being back.

‘We have organisations contacting us wanting to contribute to what we are doing.

‘And we have been offered 33,000ft to use at a warehouse in Chichester.’

Five vans were loaded up with donation parcels which were taken by desperate people as soon as the convoy entered the infamous camp – known as ‘The Jungle.’

But the determination and drive to leave the city with a larger convoy stands.

Matt said: ‘We have been offered use of trucks and cars from the general public.

‘The team has learned from its mistakes and is planning to do the distribution in a different way so people can leave with equal amounts.

‘If people want to do something to support then they need to just go for it.’

The convoy hopes to return to Calais for its second mission this weekend.

The national exposure of the camp has triggered hundreds to support the same area.

The team will again set off from Al Burrito in Albert Road and want to ensure everyone gets some support, with the most vulnerable being a priority.

Meanwhile, Duane Bradshaw, 28, from Havant, who was a driver on the mission, says people need to see for themselves the conditions many refugees are living in.

He said: ‘Here at home, I can’t even think about what is happening.

‘I just want to go back to support.

‘The whole experience was totally overwhelming and I am still digesting what happened now.’

Refugees are given one meal a day for survival.

There is a shop on the site for some to buy food but not everyone is in a financial position to do so.

Mr Bradshaw added: ‘I was caught up in the rush of people pushing to get their hands on the food.

‘As soon as the door to the van is opened they don’t care about who is in their way and just want the food.

‘I was a little frightened by what was happening.’

The team had no choice but to retreat from the area which was highly populated with hungry people.

Many followed the vans along the stretch of road in the hope the food would be unloaded.

Mr Bradshaw continued: ‘I could see the desperation in their eyes.’

Even though thousands are living in such bleak and filthy conditions, the gratitude they have for what they receive is substantial.

Those living at the camp are predominantly male with very few women and children.

On several occasions, refugees welcomed the team into the area they call home for coffee and food.

One man broke some bread and handed offered it as a sign of gratitude.

Yazen Atia, 28, of Southsea, was exhausted after being awake for more than 30 hours.

He said: ‘Everything happened so suddenly and the decision to go to Calais was completely spontaneous.

‘When we return to support more people, our distribution will be more organised, otherwise we will have a huge rush like at the weekend.

‘I think it would work best if we have all of the food portioned in bags, the clothes in a separate van and categorised into their size range.’

The group unloaded the vans at a French supermarket after their insight into how determined people are to get their hands onto items.

They split the food into portions so refugees left with equal portions.

Anyone interested in donating or would like to join the convoy are encouraged to contact the team at: https://goo.gl/2mQ6mP