On December 1st 2015 Refugee Community Kitchen served it’s first meal in the Jungle in Calais. We have since been serving food day in day out without question ever since. At the height of the Jungle we were serving over 2500 meals a day with a total now served of over a million meals since setting up. Even with witnessing evictions and fires on a regular basis and the final eviction and the destruction of the Jungle and Dunkirk we managed as best we could to respond to the food needs of the refugees.
With the Jungle destroyed the authorities hoped that would be the end of refugees arriving in Calais, that people wouldn’t arrive if there was no place for them to come to. But people fleeing war and famine from Eretria and Sudan, Afghan, Pakistan and Syria don’t know that the Jungle is not there anymore, in fact they didn’t know the Jungle was there in the first place. All they know is they want a chance of life.
This is being proven to be the case as more and more refugees arrive in Northern France. With the Dunkirk camp burnt to the ground and no Jungle the authorities have taken the cruel stance of not to let these people settle. What we see now is worse than it has ever been. There is no infrastructure, no water, no toilets, no nothing. Many minors still arriving are unaccompanied (I prefer to call them children) and they sleep in the woods and the ditches this is if they are allowed sleep at all. The confrontations with the CRS are relentless and inhumane. They are moved on, moved out, moved anywhere but the spot that they find you. People aren’t being offered any options, no information, nowhere to turn to, no hope. Welcome to Europe.
Food had become the political hot potato. To control food is to control the people. The Mayor of Calais created bans in certain areas of the feeding of the refugees with the rhetoric that if we feed them it will only attract them. Every day was a game of cat and mouse. We had to change our distribution points regularly when we hear news of the police blocking our efforts and putting time restrictions on our service. Generally obstructing the humanitarian mission to feed those in need with searches and vehicle stops.
We have watched the ebbs and flo’s of the media interest and the agenda of hate which is being used by the right wing in this crisis using refugees/migrants as the current weapon of choice to bring fear into our houses. They’re stealing our jobs, claiming benefits, they’re terrorists and the most repeated to us “Why don’t you look after your own? “ And we had an answer to that “We do.”
With the skill set that we had in our volunteers that wanted to help but couldn’t get themselves to Calais or Dunkirk it would have been short-sighted not to set something up in the UK. We realised that the few refugees that did manage to get to the UK often had no support and although given leave to stay couldn’t work, get any benefits, eventually finding themselves homeless. We knew this would be impacting on the ever-increasing homeless issues in the UK. In October 2016, 10 months after setting up in Calais we took to the streets and set up a homeless outreach in London. Any person that is displaced even in their own country and is seeking help, we hope we can offer some help in the form of a hot meal.
Currently RCK serve over 300 meals a week over 3 nights in Camden Town and a weekly Outreach in Hackney. The clients get served a hot main meal served with Rice, along with salads, fresh fruits, puddings, breads and more. The majority of the food served at the outreach is rescued food or waste food, collected and delivered by volunteers chopped prepared and cooked in our own houses.
People have asked us how do we know who is homeless, who is a refugee? How do we judge who needs food. But we don’t know and we won’t ask. If somebody is coming to outreach for food and not at home sharing a meal with family or friends then there must be a reason for us to feed them and Feeding without judgement is what RCK do. The clients on the ground are varied the social issues are different but the marginalisation is still very much the same everywhere. Our clients are refugees, homeless, people from hostels, Old age Pensioners and people with mental and medical health issues that are not in a situation to look after themselves.
Refugee Community Kitchen is committed to providing good healthy, wholesome food for the refugees during the continuing crisis for as long as we can. With the famine taking hold of East Africa creating the movement of 20 million people and the continuing exodus from countries at war, living under dictatorship, fear of torture, and poverty, without a global conversation it looks like this is going to be a long and painful journey not just for those on the move, but also for those that can see no end of this struggle and those that are trying to make a difference.
We are still here, still in Calais and Dunkirk providing over 1000 meals a day. We have been providing food to Syria, Serbia, Paris and London. None of the struggles are news worthy anymore, all yesterday’s news. What can we tell a 15 year old who has lost his family but wants to study to be in the Navy or the 19 year old whom speaks 3 languages and has walked 1,000’s of miles, to the old lady who should be safe at home watching her grandchildren grow, what do we tell them? That this is it? We can offer food and love but trying to give them hope when there is no help and our hands are tied is a lie too far.
If you want to get involved email firstname.lastname@example.org for Calais /Dunkirk and RCKoutreach@gmail.com for the UK. Or if you can help financially please you will be making a difference Donate here
Refugee Community Kitchen