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As the refugee crisis continues in Europe, many people have been moved to action this week.
In Sweden, members of the Triratna Buddhist Order joined a Stockholm demonstration in support of refugees arriving in Sweden. In Manchester and London, UK, Order members Amitasuri and Ambaravajri collected clothing, which they drove to the refugee camp at Calais, northern France, in Amitasuri’s van.
Amitasuri says: “ We made it easy to give. People flexed their compassion muscles.
I put out a message on my Facebook page for people to help me, and Ambaravajri responded, from the London Buddhist Centre.
I only have a small van, so we limited our collection to shoes, waterproofs, fleeces, tents, sleeping bags, tents and tarpaulins. The Manchester and London Buddhist Centres agreed to receive donated materials and I created an event page on my Compassionate Action Facebook page. In 24 hours we had enough to fill the van and off we went - with a lot of filo pasties to keep us going, courtesy of Sassirika!
It was important to us to give wisely. We saw a lot of unwise giving: people dumping bin bags full of unsuitable clothes by the side of the road, leaving people to fight over them. We gave our materials to the Catholic charity Caritas, who were already working there, with a proper distribution system.
We found a translator and went to meet people. There are about 4,000 people in the camp at Calais, with more arriving every day: Afghanis, Syrians, Libyans, Kuwaitis, displaced people without papers, etc. We met a man whose seven brothers had all died, and a 10 year-old boy with kidney failure, asthma and anaemia and no medicine – and no parents.
The refugees will be there for months, through the winter, and they have nothing to do. Many of them may die. There is a real need for people with experience of teamwork to go and work with them: to lead teams, teach self-help skills; to help them run a school and learn new languages; to help organise Caritas’ distribution warehouses; long term help.
I can’t do it and I wonder who can.”
Read Caritas’ report, ‘Inside Calais’ migrant camp’.