Lisa goes to Calais to help out refugee support group

Lisa Oguona, wearing a red jacket, is pictured with Calaisaid volunteers as they get ready to take items from the warehouse to the refugee camp.
Lisa Oguona, wearing a red jacket, is pictured with Calaisaid volunteers as they get ready to take items from the warehouse to the refugee camp.

A Morpeth woman travelled hundreds of miles to provide refugees with various donated items.

After receiving toiletries, bedding, toys and warm clothing from friends, neighbours and those who participate in her Zumba classes, Lisa Oguona took them in a van to the North West.

They were moved into a large transit van that a fellow Zumba instructor had got hold of – which added to the items she had collected – and together, the two women drove to Calais in France via a ferry at Dover.

Lisa spent four days with the Calaisaid group and helped members to distribute these goods and others at a camp known as The Jungle. She also met some of the refugees living in the camp.

Most have fled war-torn countries such as Syria, Libya and Iraq and others had been living in the UK for a few years and come to the end of their stay. They have decided to wait in Calais as they go through the process of getting a new visa.

The Kirkhill resident said: “After watching the heart-breaking scenes on television over the past couple of months showing the plight of refugees escaping war and persecution, I decided to do something to help as many of the people currently living in tents at Calais as I could.

“I received many items from my Zumba participants and I bought some Zumba-wear and other prizes for a raffle. It raised £102 and I used it for fuel for the transit van from the North West to Calais and back again.

“I also asked neighbours and friends with children if they could donate some toys for the children in the camp.

“At Calais, our items were taken to a huge disused warehouse. Calaisaid volunteers carry out a quality control check and if the boxes have a mixture of things, they are sorted into categories.

“I went out with volunteers into the camp for a few days and you can’t fully appreciate how big it is until you see it for yourself. There are specific areas for countries as people of the same nationality tend to stick together.

“It was a humbling and yet extremely rewarding experience. The refugees are very appreciative of what people are doing to support them and the donated items are a big help.

“I’m grateful to my partner Tony, who donated his time, van from our business Butlers on Call and paid for fuel to take me to the transit van in the North West, and fellow Kirkhill residents Sylvia and Les Maddison for helping to sort and categorise the donated items I received.”

For more information about supporting Calaisaid, email calaisaid@gmail.com or visit the Calais People to People Solidarity – Action From UK group it has set up on Facebook.