Sunderland bar worker uses furlough time to volunteer at Calais' refugee camps
A Sunderland bar worker furloughed due to COVID-19 has been volunteering in Calais to help at refugee camps affected by the pandemic.
Charlotte Roberts, 22, usually works at 808 Bar & Kitchen in St Thomas Street, but after the bar closed in line with Government restrictions to limit the spread of the virus she travelled to Northern France to join volunteers from Care4Calais.
Along with other volunteers, Charlotte distributed food to refugees on a very limited budget.
Charlotte, who plans to return to work at 808 once the restrictions are lifted, said: “One of the biggest benefits of Care4Calais is that staying here is providing a sense of hope. If I was in the refugees’ situation, with no help, I would have completely lost hope.
“These are times when we’re supposed to rely on humanity. If you are going through a crisis and there is no one there to help at that point – when can you rely on anyone? At least we are showing that people can still care.”
Charlotte, who has just returned to Britain via ferry after volunteering for three weeks, said: “We really are in this together. We can help and do what we can to provide what is needed to get us all through this, not just the refugees.”
Charlotte says humanitarian work has long been a passion of hers and after she was furloughed it gave her a chance to put her spare time to good use.
She explained: “I wanted to do this long before this outbreak and I really want to go into humanitarian work.
“It’s my first time here, but I’ve wanted to come for ages, but it wasn’t possible because of work – I work in hospitality. But now work is closed back home, so I could come straight away.
“It’s an amazing experience. Very busy. Very challenging and something I have never experienced before. In fact, nothing I have experienced before has prepared me or could have prepared me for what I’ve experienced here. It’s been eye-opening – and inspiring.
“The daily work has changed because of extra measures put in place to keep people safe. So much of what we usually do, we can’t do now, and the procedures for safety and hygiene are taking up much more time than the actual food distribution.
“The preparation is so important because if you go out on distribution and you’re not prepared, the whole thing would just fall apart. We don’t want to be the reason for the spread of the virus. It could spread like wildfire.”
Speaking about the difficulties she’s faced, she said: “I think there are a lot of aspects that I have found difficult.
“Just seeing the way people are living and the governments and organisations doing so little to help, while we are trying to do so much with so little and have been given so little support. In times of crisis, people need more help, but they are receiving less now than they were before.”
For more information on Care4Calais go to: Care4Calais.org