Guess What? There is still a Refugee Crisis

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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.

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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  refugeecommunitykitchen@gmail.com 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

Learning How to make Chutney

The last few weeks have found me at my parents house, plunged into the life of a full time carer. It’s in a beautiful place surrounded by mountains and countryside so it could be worse and a beautiful garden in the throws of the last of the summer. My mum has always prided herself on her garden and her green fingers have provided fresh food for our family since I can remember. Being sent to the vegetable patch to get the veg for dinner, hours podding peas, toping and tailing gooseberries and blackcurrants. Then the preserving the jamming and pickling and later the freezing. So it just so happens that I have arrived at the time of a storm and therefore a glut of Tomatoes, Apples, Damsons.

I am interested in learning how to preserve things. If you are growing your own food it makes sense to be able to save your produce to last you longer. Basic stuff for thousands of years in different ways around the world and no better teacher than my mum. For years her Jams have graced our tables in fact if she had been a member of the WI she would have been a contender for many a prize.

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The tomatoes came first through the door as the weight of the fruit and the winds of the storm had folded the plants to the ground. My mum made it sound so simple and there was no reason to doubt her.

Ingredients

Lots of green and red tomatoes of every size
Red onions
Garlic
Ginger
1 red chilli
Red wine vinegar
Sugar
turmeric

My way ….
I placed the washed tomatoes in to a saucepan I guess there was about 1.500kg and then chopped 4 medium red onion, finely chopped garlic, ginger grated, and a deseeded red chilli, a sprinkle of turmeric chucked in with red wine vinegar (I did this by eye enough for it to simmer). Then I added the sugar along the way. Tasting it and adding as needed. I left it simmer for about an hour after everything had been put in the pot. Simple init?

 

Whilst that was bubbling away I brought some water to the boil and dropped in some jam-jars in to sterilise them ready to fill.

 

 

After an hour with occasional stirring the contents of the pot had broken down to a gorgeous looking smooth chutney. The smell was just delicious all the way through the process from the boiling vinegar smell to the rich tangy smell of fruits and onions.

I bottled them up and got 3 jars in all and some left overs. So now the proof is in the tasting and it was a bit of a ceremony. Crackers, Butter, Cheese and Pickle. I can’t tell you how nice it was, maybe a little too sweet for me but all together a winner.

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So with a bit by eye and a bit by taste and a bit of knowledge I made my first Chutney. I think it is gorgeous but of course I would say that. I’m no expert but one thing is for sure it was easy just like my mum said

Life skills.

The Hampstead Mum

It’s Conker Season and I’m going to be Making Laundry Soap

It’s conker season and the games have began. But I am excited for a different reason.

For a while now since my sister introduced me to soap nuts I have been interested in alternatives to commercial washing soaps that make a huge impact on our environment and our pockets.  When the privileged discover a new thing that happens to be a staple of a poorer country, the knock on effect is that us lucky peeps inadvertently create shortages and rising costs for those populations. Those that rely on it and this is happening with soap nuts. (Another classic example of this is Quinoa. Prices have been driven up so the middle classes can have one and a half unopened packets stashed in the back of their cupboard and locals have lost their staple diet).  So I was very interested to learn that we have a source for laundry soap and it is a lot closer to home and just happens to be season.  CONKERS !!!! (Horse Chestnuts)

Here’s the scientific bit …….Soap nuts contain saponins, which is a soap-like chemical compound that creates a lather and suds, but of course, it’s all natural.  It just so happens that conkers do to. So as it is conker season get out there and start collecting.

When you have collected them take them out of their green cases and give them a shake so there are no little creatures left. Next if you have a food mixer give them a little Ziz and roughly break them up. If you don’t have a mixer you can smash them with a hammer. This will release the saponins and some stress. Now put them in a container and cover them with hot water and allow them to steep. The conkers will now start to release their saponins.  Leave them to steep for about half an hour to forty five minutes. The water will start to look cloudy and eventually thicken with a yellow hue. Strain the liquid from the conkers and there you have laundry soap.

It will take a quarter to a third of a cup per wash. You can add a drop of essential oil such as lavender if you like your laundry to smell clean as well.  This is good for a week or so kept in the fridge. I am just about to freeze some liquid and some whole conkers plus drying them out. I will try them out in a few months to see if this is a sustainable supply of laundry soap.

Trying to lessen my impact one wash at a time

Hampstead Mum

LD50 – a Gallery of Hate

 

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Earlier today local residents, Anti racism groups and Antifa descended on Dalston East London to shut down an Art Gallery LD50. A gallery that has been hosting Neo Nazi exhibitions, talks by holocaust deniers  and the distribution of Nazi propaganda. Brett Stevens, the white supremacist whose writing was an inspiration to Oslo far-right terrorist Andres Breivik who murdered 77 people in 2011 came to the gallery to LD50’s Neoreaction conference held earlier this year. Stevens stated he was honoured to have influenced the far right terrorist.  The talks hosted here are numerous ,along with the artwork, and all have the same subtext Alt-right and  Fascism.

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Up to 300 people marched on the gallery chanting to shut it down and that they would return. A smashed window and some antifa stickers were left as a little message. One Alt right freedom of speech guy and his side kick seemed a little at odds with the majority there. The irony being he was allowed his free speech and then told to fuck off.

No platform for fascists

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No-platforming is as valid a means to exercise free speech as any other. We are not in a declining era of free speech – but we appear to be in a golden age of entitled hypocrisy. Let us remember when we speak of “free speech” that those arguments presume everyone’s voice has an equal voice in society.

So the gallery didn’t open today and hopefully it won’t open tomorrow. We will be back

Hampstead Mum

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Tonight’s Dinner, & Why I don’t Call Myself a Vegetarian Anymore

 

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A few of my facebook friends are trying hard to change their diets to suit their beliefs, their evolution and become vegetarians. When I stopped eating meat it seemed a big step at the time, back then my reasoning was that I could not justify eating meat and call myself an activist. If I really wanted to see change I could not continue to support the meat industry. Oh I had the cries of “good Butchers, freerange” and even anger that I was causing this upset at meal times, this inconvenience. But it’s not a life style choice it’s a moral decision. With all the reasons that I can list cruelty, climate change, slavery, the reasons I do not eat meat have changed over time. My reasons at this point for not eating meat is I can’t use my privilege and power to take another life when I don’t have to. There are a few types of meat that are farmed for our consumption where there are so many more vegetables and ways of  preparing them and combinations. It can be a veritable feast.

However I have stopped calling myself a vegetarian recently because I have had occasion in the last year where I have eaten meat.  Working in the refugee camps over the last 2 years I have seen meat take on many meanings, protein, celebrations, marriage, and teenagers. When you are cooking in camps for refugees there becomes the occasions that you offered a feast cooked by a family or community that have nothing and have fled war (that’s another story) but come together to share with you and others. I thoroughly enjoyed these occasions because I haven’t stopped eating meat because I didn’t like it. But when it comes to me in this way I once again will not use my privilege to refuse this meal, just because I can go and get food somewhere else whilst they can’t and that means more than I have the words for.

This comes to another point that in third and second world countries meat is not an everyday occurrence and the main part of the diet is vegetables and religions that are vegetarian. That isn’t the case here in the West and some immerging economies where we can and do eat meat maybe 3 times or more a day, processed, antibiotic filled, slaves served to you on your plate and it is my privilege that chooses not to be part of that sick world.

But then there’s road kill, I haven’t decided on that one yet.

Anyway I promised them I was going to give them some pointers not that this is going to become a food blog but I could think of worse things..

A food lover

Janie Mac

 

 

Didn’t Hitler Build a Holiday Resort ?

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The dates are out, the eviction is to start on the 17th of this month. The Calais jungle is to be permanently evicted. The figures that both sides give are massive in their differences. The official line is there are 6,000 refugees, but at the last census carried out showed over 10,000. The Official line is they have placements for everyone in the camp, holding centres and reception centres, but we all know that this isn’t enough places and we know it takes months for people to be processed. The Official line is there is only 400 lone children in the camp, the reality is there is over 1,000 and 387 of those have proven family in the UK. There are no provisions in place for any of these young vulnerables and if the last eviction is anything to go by were we lost 129 children we will only see this again if not in bigger numbers. The official line is they don’t give a shit about these children.

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I have tried to work out why I haven’t been doing my usual ranting about this eviction and I have come to the conclusion I didn’t really believe they would go ahead with it. And I really don’t know what to say. But as the day draws nearer and meetings are being held and contingency plans are being put in place by the volunteers for every eventuality I am starting to feel sick with the realisation we are living in a fascist mind-set that has no humanity at it’s disposal.

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The daunting reality can no longer being ignored in just over a week thousands of refugees will once again be displaced, abused and will loose any resemblance of normality they have been able to establish through routines and familiar faces.

“What will they do? ” people keep on asking me. What do you do when your soul is broken and your will is being chipped away bit by bit. When those that are rich enough to build a longer table and feed you all prefer to spend the money on a wall and build it higher. What are they going to do? They are thousands of individual people trying to find a glimmer of hope, to settle down and have a chance at life, to be able to go to school, nip to the shop, to gossip with their neighbours, celebrate births and birthdays.

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After the last eviction the grief I felt was crippling and I didn’t go back on to camp for a long time, friends and faces were gone, just gone. If that is how I feel imagine how the residents of the jungle must feel ? but that’s just it I can’t imagine it. As I prepare to leave to go to Calais I know that whatever happens we will be there and I know all the amazing volunteers will try and do the best they can for the residents and give every last ounce. But when we face thousands of CRS, tear gas and machinery the capitalist machine shows itself in all it’s raw greed.  They must clear the blot on the landscape and build a holiday resort and a theme park called Heroic Land. Apart from the volunteers I can’t see anything heroic going on here at all.

 

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What can we do ?

There are plenty of sites on FB with plans, what’s needed, drop off points, collection points etc. In the Refugee community Kitchen it will be business as usual and food will be cooked and distribution points will be set up around the area and continue in the camp. If I were to ask you to do anything it would be to get to Calais and show your support in numbers and show some humanity. That’s what I will be doing, I want history to show that we didn’t all turn our back.

Refugees Welcome

Hampstead Mum

 

https://www.facebook.com/groups/RefugeeCommunityKitchen/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/152779071748953/

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A Eulogy to Tom Palmer

561033_10151454510710384_832561014_nI first met Tom on the Steps of St Pauls. One early morning during the occupations we sat on the steps and we talked of change I don’t think Tom had been to sleep. I have chosen to write a Eulogy and not an obituary for Tom because it is about celebrating his life yet I know Tom’s life was not always a celebration. Tom is well known to the protest scene and wasn’t always a welcome participant as his illness increasingly interfered with his reality. But Tom is exactly the reason we sat on those steps he was a young adult that needed support, his family needed support. This was something that wasn’t being offered in this time of banking crisis and cuts to Mental Health services and the National Health.  His mental health deteriorated in front of us. It had got to the stage that the only time he got to see the services he needed was through contact with the police and the courts. None of us were qualified to deal with the situations that Tom presented us with. But that was part and parcel of Tom, on the other hand Tom was super intelligent and for all his extreme paranoia was astute with his observations of the state. He set up his Anarchesque Boilerplate an alternative news outlet and his writings where insightful and progressive. He was a musician and many a night was serenaded by Tom on his guitar and his lyrics were sharp, current and funny. His poetry and narrative of life was sometime bordering on genius.

We used to joke when we met about how I had blocked him on social media. He didn’t get upset we would laugh about our interactions or should I say his interactions and my ignoring his claims of myself being an agent, which was standard. One evening I got a call off GBC asking me to pass by the James Bond Premier as we had received a phone call about a demonstration there. When I turned up the crowds where flocking around the red carpet to see the stars walk down the red carpet. Then I heard some shouting and there was Tom shouting at the actors walking down the red carpet that James Bond wasn’t an agent that he knew the truth as he was agent KingFisher. The police where watching him as he shouted “Oi Janie Mac tell them, she knows she’s an agent, she runs GBC they are all agents” It was funny but at the same time Tom believed it to be true so therefore it was.

I will leave you with something Tom wrote  HOBO HILTON, Heir Apparant to St Pauls? Evicted on Oct 19th

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We have lost a Musician, Artist, Poet, Anarchist, Activist, Victim and fellow Occupier. Someone that could have changed the world.

Love always

Agent Janie Mac