We are building our network of local drop off points for donations, we are using volunteers to help sort and pack the goods so they can be easily distributed in the camps. We currently use a variety of sorting and storage stations and continue to look for a permanent base in the county.
Rather than spread ourselves too thinly we have decided to focus our efforts on the refugee camp in Calais, the nearest camp to Scotland and to identify one other camp further south where our input can be of most use. We are not choosing two sites because the need is any greater than anywhere else but because we believe that we can most effectively target our resources in camps that we learn about in detail and where we have built links and partnerships. This will enable us to make the best use of time, money and donations. The Refugee crisis affects the whole of Europe and other organisations are actively involved supporting other camps. We will closely monitor this situation and if we feel that we can support other areas as well, we will. We have further trips planned to Calais in November and December and aim to send a container of donations to a camp further south before the end of 2015. We will then develop a programme of convoys during 2016 based on the quantity of donations we manage to gather and the money we manage to raise to pay for transport.
We will need to fundraise to meet the operational costs involved in collecting, sorting and transporting donated aid, managing volunteers and to buy and distribute items that we know are desperately needed by refugees such as food and stoves.
We are currently running a stove appeal. We have managed to find a route to buy these wholesale and the more we buy the cheaper we can get them. We will be taking stoves down to Calais and helping to install them giving a package of support to groups of 10 – 12 refugees that includes:
A portable stove with a removable chimney
These are professionally designed with a high safety spec and are suitable to use inside tents when fitted with a flashing kit and spark arrestor. We have carefully researched this and will buy the stoves that are most robust, safe and value for money.
We are also asking for donations of old fireguards which a team of volunteers will adapt so that they can be used around stoves, especially in tents used by children.
We also have an opportunity to offer expert-led workshops so volunteers can learn how to make ‘thunder stoves’ which can be used outdoors and may also useful in the camps. We will explore this possibility and if viable will run workshops.
So far we have received a grant from East Lothian council and many smaller donations. Every penny of this money will be used support refugees in the following ways:
Transporting donated goods and volunteers down to the camps in Europe where the aid is needed. This includes expenditure on transport, insurance and volunteer expenses
Buy essential items like cooking stoves and food for distribution among refugees.
A small amount on materials (such as packaging; collection boxes) and administration (such as postage, printing) and public liability insurance
At the moment everyone involved in running the project those who have contributed the odd hour, those who have given up weeks at a time to work in the refugee camps and those who have been working full time behind the scenes for months have done so on a voluntary basis – no-one has been paid a penny, in fact most people have contributed money out of their own pocket as well as their time.
In the longer term we feel it is important that we have a small core of paid staff. This is to make sure that the organisation is accountable and properly run with donations fully accounted for, proper systems and risk assessments carried out and the logistics well managed to make sure that the money donated is well spent. We need to look after our volunteers and manage health and safety issues as well as supporting their personal development and welfare. We need to be able to support our volunteers both in East Lothian and while they are travelling abroad.
We feel that this simply can’t be done well enough in the long term with volunteers alone. So we will be fundraising to pay for this – by making applications to funds available specifically for staff. Having a professional core of permanent staff will give confidence in our organisation and will allow us to raise more funds for work on the ground. We will not be using any of the money donated for refugee support to pay for core staff – only money from funds specifically for this. We will still need the massive and hugely valuable input from volunteers who help collect and sort donations and to run fundraising activities.
Volunteers and helpers
We are so grateful for the huge amount of support received from volunteers and helpers and would particularly like to thank:
Various individuals and groups have agreed to be a drop off point in their neighbourhood and have collected a huge quantity of donations
Drivers and helpers who have picked up and handled tons of donations
Every single person who has turned out to help sort and pack up the donations, some have donated the odd hour and others have given days and weeks of time – every bit of help has been appreciated
People who have offered storage and sorting space
The volunteers who have driven down to the refugee camps and then spent time there supporting refugees and distributing aid
Those who have worked behind the scenes - fundraising, setting up websites, researching transport and stoves, planning logistics, setting up events, liaising with other groups and managing the administration and finances
And everyone who has sent messages of support, passed on information and helped in hundreds of other small ways