A Selfless Good Deed

casey-hill-mum-helper-makeup-artist-good-deed-selfless-calais-volunteer-free-work-unpaid-caring

actress-mum-makeup-artist-tradesIf you’re between the ages of 30 and 50 (and live on planet earth) chances are you’ve seen the FRIENDS episode where Joey bets Phoebe there’s no such thing as a selfless good deed…

A few months ago a photographer I follow on Instagram started posting photos of her time volunteering in the ‘Calais Jungle’. Instantly I knew I wanted to help too…and get loads of likes in the meantime. Don’t get me wrong, I have always wanted to do something more than just donate a fiver to charity every month, it’s just that I knew my decision would garner lots of admiration…

Organising a way to volunteer was surprisingly easy and, thankfully, I was able to rope my sister into coming with me. Two weeks later- and lots of pats on the back and feelings of smugness from yours truly- I left my babies with my slightly aggrieved husband and drove to Dover.

For the next three days I worked my ass off. Volunteering is HARD. It’s monotonous, dirty, and kind of thankless. Obviously I instagramed all of my benevolence (!) so here are my nightly musings…

Day 1 as a volunteer! I’m exhausted!! Today was spent sorting tents to distribute to people in the #CalaisJungle Met wonderful fellow volunteers, chatted with two great guys practising their English at the ‘JungleBooks’ school, and had a lush dinner in a ‘restaurant’ within the Camp.
Lessons learnt- don’t give shit to charity that doesn’t work, is dirty, or broken. It takes an army and an age to sort through and is kind of disrespectful to all involved. When I unpacked a donated tent to check that it wasn’t mouldy (Lots of the refugees suffer from respiratory problems as they are regularly tear gassed so mould is bad news) and that all pieces were intact, a used tampon fell out. Yep. Used.

calais-volunteer-volunteering-help-caring-good-deed-selflessDay 2 as a volunteer! Today we got….dirty!! Moving MOUNTAINS of clothing donations. Literally, hours of heaving and throwing bin bags full of clothes that aren’t appropriate for the refugees. It was physically hard-core. For the second evening that we have been volunteering we ventured into the camp to help the refugees with their conversational English. Topics of conversation- Animals, Weather, Travel, Dream destinations (Brazil was high on the list!) Some of the men shared more (their personal stories/struggles) but most tried to keep positive.
Lessons learnt- The refugees are there and they’re desperate.  I constantly hear people saying that ‘the Jungle has been bulldozed’ or ‘They’ve moved the immigrants on’ Nope. Thousands and thousands of our fellow human beings are just over the water living in tents through sun, storms and snow.

Day 3 as a volunteer! I helped to distribute clothing and hygiene products at the Dunkirk Refugee Camp today (after a brief stint cutting a seemingly endless mountain of garlic for the Calais kitchens!!) Most of these refugees are Kurds who fled Iraq. Dunkirk makes the #CalaisJungle look even more chaotic. The Dunkirk Mayor built this camp after he deemed the living standards of the old one as inhumane. It’s lay out and construction reminded me of my times on Military Bases. Back in the day I worked as a performer, on the front lines, entertaining troops in Iraq & Afghanistan to name a few. I have been reflecting on how that war was most probably the starting point for quite a few of these refugees...

Day 4 as a volunteer! My time volunteering has come to an end. I must return to my own children! I have met some kind, intelligent, funny Refugees and Volunteers. Volunteering has first and foremost been physically tiring…but I wouldn’t take it back for anything. I don’t think my politics have changed yet my UNDERSTANDING and empathy has definitely increased. I certainly haven’t changed the world but I’m certain that the tents I checked and packed, the blankets I found and sorted, and toilet paper and toothpaste I handed out may have helped someone who was in a shitty situation not have to worry about that small facet of their day… And if every person made another person’s day less shitty in one tiny way or another perhaps we COULD change the world…

I now don’t mind that most good deeds aren’t selfless. Those men, women and children deserved help and us volunteers merit a little praise. I am team Joey; there are no selfless good deeds, but so long as you are doing something kind, I think that’s ok.

If you would like to volunteer or donate please contact www.helprefugees.org.uk  www.care4calais.org