As you guys know, I spent time in 2017 living in northern France and working for the Dunkirk Refugee Women’s Centre. After I left, I struggled emotionally coming to terms with this huge crisis I witnessed, and not knowing how to help refugees without actually being there in the camps. The reality, however, is that not everyone can/wants/or is able to travel to the front lines and volunteer. But refugees all around the world still need our help, as we’ve seen in the news lately with Refugee Week and the separation of parents and children in the US. Since I left the Refugee Women’s Centre, I’ve discovered how to help refugees in a practical, location-independent way.
It’s March which means Women’s History month and International Women’s Day (Thursday March 8!) – AKA girl power month. It also means I have an announcement!
On Earth Day (April 22) I will be running 13.1 miles in an all-women half marathon, in support of my beloved Refugee Women’s Center. I have run races before (only one half marathon!) but I have NEVER done a fundraiser. Why am I doing my first one now? Well, I found the charity that deserves it.
Twenty miles across the English channel, I went to work everyday and spoke with teenage girls who woke up with tear gas in their eyes, police boots in their ribs. On the outskirts of the grey, suburban neighborhoods of Dunkirk and Calais, police soak donated sleeping bags and tarpaulin in tear gas concoctions, rendering them useless. Children sell their bodies so they can pay for a way to meet family across the channel. The first cases of trenchfoot since World War One are running rampant. It sounds like a dystopian reality, but it’s not, and it’s here.
I could go on explaining the police intimidation and horrific conditions that make up life for refugees in Northern France right now (and this is a good post if that’s what you want to read) – but something would be missing. The actual refugees.
This post is the final installment (although I will continue to write about this topic in many forms – your feedback is welcome in the survey at the bottom of this post!) in my diary posts on volunteering in a refugee camp in Northern France with the Roland Levinsky Memorial scholarship. You can read the first three posts here: 1, 2, 3.
This is the second installment in my short series about volunteering in a refugee camp in France. You can read my first post here.
As some of you may remember from my impassioned word-vomit post a few months ago on why (and how) travelers should support refugees, in March I received a scholarship to help me volunteer at a refugee camp.
Well, the time has come for me to actually volunteer! The scholarship donors informed me that they like to keep up to date on the experience via social media and blogs, so I figured, well, obviously Endless Distances is the perfect outlet for that.
I am of the opinion that as people who like to travel, as people who enjoy culture (of any kind), we have a duty to protect refugees. We are the people who have seen the world. Who have seen the art in Russia and tasted the street food in China and drank in the pubs in Scotland. We know that the world is full of people who are DIFFERENT than us, and more importantly, we value this: we take their art home, we wander their museums, we recreate their recipes, we fill scrapbooks with bits of their culture. Is it not our duty to protect these people of different cultures when they need us?