What are we going to do???

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One of our new community kitchens in camp

Seeing tens of thousands of desperate people fleeing their homes to get to a place of safety on your television screens is overwhelming. The humanitarian crisis confronting us all is so big and so complex it’s hard to know where to start. It’s true that there are no easy answers but there is clarity if you look into the eyes of the seven thousand men, women and children living in squalor just 20 miles away from Britain’s shores. They are living without access to proper sanitation, food or shelter and that is plain wrong and we are not going to stand by and do nothing. So –what are we going to do?

Over the last month, the kitchens on camp have come together under the umbrella Calais Kitchens with the aim of making sure everyone in camp can get at least one hot meal a day. We are also sending out bulk food deliveries to community groups in camp who are feeding themselves and their neighbours with our support.

Every day we meet more people who need our help. Most camp residents have been there for at least a few months now and have run out of what money they had when they arrived. The gas cooker they had has run out and any wood has been burned or soaked by the rain.

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Cupboards stocked, gas filled, ready to go


We are building 20 new community kitchens across the camp, fitting them with stoves and supplying them with wood and food so camp residents can feed themselves and the communities around them.

We are supporting over 50 existing community kitchens across the camp to improve their shelters, replace their stoves and provide them with firewood and food supplies.

The vulnerable get first priority alongside large community groups which can cook together to feed a large number of people.

We are mapping the camp and plotting each community kitchen with GPS coordinates. We are logging what each kitchen needs and how many people it is feeding. We know how many people we are reaching, where they are based and what they need to carry on.

We are working with community leaders every day to hand over the responsibility of managing the community kitchens and getting the food out to everyone to them. Refugees are volunteers just like us – they are putting their time and energy into helping each other, standing together when many would try and safeguard the scarce resources they had for themselves.

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How is this going to happen?
MSF are going to supply the shelters to house the new community kitchens and help replace unsafe shelters currently being used as kitchens across the camp.

Finn and John of Windysmithy.co.uk will be fitting the new community kitchens with rocket stoves including flues and chimneys and hot plates.

Donated fire wood (or wood bought with donated money) will be distributed by a volunteer on a regular basis to all kitchens.

 Why is this so important?
Food is nourishment for the body and the soul. We cannot survive without it but it’s also fundamental to our social groups and our relationships. When people have nothing, food and shelter is everything. We are working hard to give people the chance to feed themselves and each other –such a basic and fundamental thing for us all.

Community Kitchens are more than somewhere to get food, they are places of safety where communities can connect.

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How you can help?
We need to raise money to build the community kitchens, fit them with stoves and equipment and supply them with food and firewood.

You can make a donation here – https://www.youcaring.com/refugees-in-the-calais-refugee-camp-492878

We are already getting the food you donate out into the camp every single day to thousands of people, with your support we can not only make sure more people are getting food, but that they are able to cook for themselves in large groups. PLEASE HELP US TO MAKE THIS HAPPEN.

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Donations of fresh fruit and vegetables are one of our favourite sights!

We are also assembling around 80 kits to equip all of the new and existing kitchens. For each kitchen we need:

Fire extinguisher
Fire blanket
Emergency signal – horn
Big metal drums filled with water outside – fire points ­www.lumkani.com
First aid kit
Set of sharp knifes
Wooden spoons
Serving spoons
Cutlery
Hard plastic: Plates, bowls, cups
Big metal or hard plastic bowls (no glass)
3 x saucepans 10 – 12 litres
Large frying pan non-stick
Small frying pan non-stick
Colander
Sieve
Tin opener
Peeler
Plastic storage containers for food and equipment with lids 50 litres
Plastic folding storage containers 32l
Water containers or rolling barrels. 50L
Washing up bowl
White board and pens
2 x Buckets
Broom wooden handle / tuff bristles
Dustpan and brush wood and metal
Dish Cloths
Tea Towels
Metal Scrubbers
Washing up Liquid

If you want to help – please organise a collection in your area and get these items out to us as soon as you can. We need everyone who thinks this humanitarian crisis is unacceptable to take action – show the refugees and the government that you care and together we can make a change.

If you can donate any of the above items or you would like any more information, please email calaiskitchens@gmail.com

 

These are the food items we need donating. Contact calaiskitchens@gmail.com for more info

These are the food items we need donating. Contact calaiskitchens@gmail.com for more info

What’s cooking in hell’s kitchens?

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There are around 7,000 people living in the Calais refugee camp just across the water from us. They each have their own story to tell about the loved ones they have left behind, the terror they have fled from and the epic journeys they have undertaken to end up in a holding pen with very little to their names.

As governments and NGOs, to their shame, have turned their backs, individuals have come forward to take a stand. A motley crew of devoted volunteers is working as you read this to provide the basics of food and shelter to cold and hungry people who arrive in camp every day.

Over the last month, the kitchens on camp have come together under the umbrella of Calais Kitchens with the aim of making sure everyone in camp can get at least one hot meal a day. We are changing the way food is going into camp – to restore dignity to people who have lost almost everything else and to make sure food is going where it is most needed.

Food is nourishment for the body and the soul. It is vital to us as communities and as individuals. We cannot survive without it.

Watch a video here about the volunteer run kitchens

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What are we already doing?

There are established kitchens in camp, run out of tents and shacks, where volunteers, largely camp residents, cook delicious, nutritious meals for thousands on a couple of gas burners.

The One Spirit Ashram Kitchen, the Belgian Kitchen, and the Kitchen in Calais together serve around 5,000 hot meals every day. These kitchens are central to life in camp because people know where they can go at what time to get a hot meal. If you try and imagine what it would be like not to know when you might eat next, you can begin to understand the importance of the kitchens and the routine they provide.

A wonderful woman called Alice also set up the first community kitchen on site, next to her Healing Centre. A community kitchen is much smaller and allows individuals or groups to cook for themselves.

We are now sending bulk ingredients to Alice like oil, rice, potatoes and onions to support those cooking in that kitchen as well as setting up other community kitchens across the camp.

At the nearby warehouse where we store all our food donations, talented volunteer chefs are sweating over stoves all day long at the new Refugee Community Kitchen. The RCK has been going for less than a month but is already sending out 1,800 hot meals to the camps in Calais and Dunkirk every day (as well as feeding around 200 hardworking volunteers at the warehouse).

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The RCK sends hot food down to Alice to help meet the need in the family area and 500 hot meals to a new hot food point in the centre of camp. As many of the existing kitchens are located in parts of the camp which are home to a specific nationality of people, they are considered out of bounds to those from other parts of the world. The new hot food point is in a neutral location so anyone can feel comfortable going there to get the food they need.

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Why do we need to do more?

The kitchens on camp are making miracles every day with what they produce in very challenging circumstances. But sometimes those challenges mean they are unable to open and when that happens, the hundreds or thousands of people who would have eaten there go hungry.

Another way people have been getting food is through line distributions. This involves a van full of individual food parcels containing two days’ worth of supplies pulling up on camp. Immediately a queue forms behind the van as people wait patiently in single file to get a bag of food. There is never enough to go around. People wait for a long time and get nothing, it is demeaning and not an effective way of reaching those most in need.

To get away from line distributions and a dependence on the established kitchens, we have set up more community kitchens, like the one by Alice’s Healing Centre. Through being in camp, talking to people and identifying community leaders, we are now sending bulk food orders to communities every week and setting up the facilities to enable them to cook for themselves.

 

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Not only do community kitchens allow individuals to take ownership of the food they want to cook and eat, whole communities can cook together and invite their neighbours, which they do – a generous spirit is alive and well in the camp.

The community kitchens are also much more efficient, with bulk deliveries feeding many more for longer than individual food parcels lasting just a day or two. It also takes less volunteer time at the warehouse to put together a bulk order for a community kitchen than assemble 200 individual bags of mixed goods.


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In exchange for putting up community kitchens and provding food in bulk, the communities they serve agree to keep their patch clean and tidy. Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) and ACTED – the only two NGOs doing anything in camp – are helping by providing the shelters for the kitchens and bins.

Once they are up and running, we can refill individual bottles of oil, sugar and milk to cut down further on waste and rubbish.

We are in the process of setting up around twenty new community kitchens in camp, which can be taken down and moved to another camp in the future when needed.

How are we making it happen?

We are now mapping the whole camp with the help of ACTED – plotting each place where communities are already preparing food with GPS coordinates. These ‘kitchens’ are usually in small wooden shelters with most are cooking on open fires with no ventilation., making them quite dangerous.

With our new map we can fix their shelters and with your help, install proper wood burning stoves with flues. As well as getting bulk food deliveries out to them, enabling them to feed more people around them, we can also identify who needs more help -the vulnerable, the sick and the elderly.

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We are working hard to empower and support people to come together to eat the food in their natural social groups.

We have already identified around 50 informal community kitchens which we are sending bulk food orders out to on a weekly basis. We are also sending small family food parcels to areas where they are needed.

Going out ‘on the ground’ is vital to find out what peopel need, rather than making our own assumptions.

It is truly amazing what can be achieved when we all work together, when we connect, communicate our ideas and listen to each other, no egos, just working for the greater good from our hearts with passion because it’s the best way to stand up for humanity.

Food connects us, feeds our bellies, minds and souls. Kitchens are the heart of any home and community.

How can you help?

The team of people already making this happen is moving mountains every day but we cannot do this alone. We need to buy the stoves to go in the community kitchens, we need to restock them with wood every week. We need to buy the food to send out to them and we need to put petrol in the van which makes the deliveries.

You can help by donating £10 to buy firewood for a week or £100 to buy a rocket stove or whatever you can afford.You can donate directly into our Paypal account  – paypal.me/calaiskitchens

If you don’t have a Paypal account, you can donate to our Youcaring fundraising page here https://www.youcaring.com/refugees-in-the-calais-refugee-camp-492878

We also desperatley need people power – to get the community kitchens up and running and to keep them supplied with food and fuel. If you could come and help us for one month or more, we can put you up in a caravan and you could help make a huge change to a lot of people. Email calaiskitchens@gmail.com for more information.

You can be a part of doing the right thing and standing shoulder to shoulder with our fellow human beings instead of turning our heads away. 

Thank you

 

The kitchen at the heart of hell on earth

At the heart of hell on earth there is a place where the cold and beleaguered go to have their weary bodies and worn-out souls nourished.

Twice a day a queue of hundreds snakes around the One Spirit Ashram Kitchen in the Calais Jungle. In the driving rain they wait in single file for the team of volunteers inside to open up and start serving.

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You can donate here http://tiny.cc/peckhamtocalais

Despite the desperation in their eyes, the patient masses give a polite smile to those managing the queue at the door with restless glances to check there is still enough left to go around.

But there is never enough. Even this mammoth effort is only feeding a fraction of the camp’s residents.

The sound of the rice pan being scraped sounds like an alarm in the tent as a man holds an empty plate and says: “but I waited for an hour.” The fevered adrenaline of preparing a meal for 500 people on two gas rings in the back of a tent is soon followed by a heavy sorrow for those who must go without.

The dedicated Ashram volunteers, including camp residents, do not toil from dawn until dusk out of pity, but out of solidarity with fellow human beings who are being forced to live without such basic necessities as food and shelter.

It has become a beacon in a hopeless place, not just somewhere to eat a precious hot meal, but somewhere to be human again.

You can donate here http://tiny.cc/peckhamtocalais

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After a fire ripped through the Sudanese part of the camp, it was on the floor of the Ashram kitchen where the homeless laid their heads.
In the early hours of the morning an exploding gas canister started a fire, which the ferocious wind blew across 40 tents sleeping men, women and children.

Volunteers camping nearby rushed to get everyone out of their tents shouting “Fire! Fire!” as the bewildered occupants stumbled out into the post-apocalyptic night. All at once, those who had nothing, lost everything all over again.

As the the embers smouldered around blackened possessions, lost men bedded down on wooden pallets covered in blankets on the Ashram floor.

You can donate here http://tiny.cc/peckhamtocalais

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This port in a storm was originally set up by two guys from Bath who did a van run to Calais together in the summer taking food and clothing to the camp.

It’s currently being overseen by a smattering of the great and the good with a former City banker- turned actor at the helm, Dom Morgan. A mild-mannered lover from Hartlepool, he is now, and ever shall be, a peace-maker and bread-breaker.

Beautiful head chef, Hero, leads an inspiring motley crew of cooks made up largely of camp residents, who all speak different languages, a few experienced volunteers, who either live in the camp or stay for a week or more at a time and the rest, who come on their days off and muck in where they can.

You can donate here http://tiny.cc/peckhamtocalais

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Now the winter weather is setting in and the camp is swelling by the day, this place of beauty and chaos is not enough. Tensions are rising as desperation grows and the authorities continue to avert their eyes.

Another larger kitchen is being built but money is desperately needed to fund the food to be served out of it.

If you want to help, please visit http://tiny.cc/peckhamtocalais