At the beginning of September 2015 a small group of volunteers in East Lothian decided to do something to help refugees. Drop off points for donations of clothing and other items were set up throughout the area and temporary warehouse space in West Barns was found. In these first few weeks the group was called Calaid East Lothian.
The group worked in conjunction with Calaid Edinburgh, who were also fundraising to ship the donations down to refugees. Three volunteers from East Lothian took part in a convoy taking two van loads of donations to the Calais refugee camp, known as the Jungle. And sorted and packed 16 tons of donations that were sent down to a warehouse in Slough, where it was sent to various refugee camps in Europe where it was most needed.
It became clear to the volunteers working on the ground that we could be more effective both co-ordinating and fundraising as an East Lothian organisation, working alongside other refugee aid organisations that are developing all over the country. Six of the most active volunteers decided to set up a company and have become the first directors, working to make sure that East Lothians refugee efforts are maximised – the new organisation is called East Lothian Aid for Refugees. We have been successful in raising a grant of £14,500 from East Lothian Council to help us co-ordinate East Lothian’s effort and have secured support from other East Lothian businesses and volunteers.
The response from East Lothian has been overwhelming and we have since received many more tons of donated goods. Unfortunately we had to move out of the temporary warehouse after a few weeks and have since been operating out of a number of storage sites while we find a new permanent base. We have continued to gather and sort donations for refugees and sent three East Lothian volunteers down with another shipment of donations to Calais in late October.
Some volunteers that had been involved decided that they wanted to carry on working with the Edinburgh group – now called Re-Act Edinburgh and they continue to aid the refugee effort in different ways.