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Wednesday, 7 September 2016


I had to take last weekend off to reflect on the past year. I was asked to write about my Calaisversary and found it difficult to not say what I really wanted to say because some of it feels not nice. But, because I'm me - I'm actually just going to tell the truth anyway. I actually don't have anything to lose because I'm not doing this work to make friends, I'm doing it to help people in need. 

It's been a little over a year since I saw a picture of a gentleman standing in front of his flooded shelter: August 2015. Overnight, my world changed and I became the founder of Caravans For Calais, creating a surreal online world to collect caravans and fundraise. Within 24 hours I'd facilitated 3 caravans, gathered volunteers, and begun fundraising more than I ever dared to dream.
With the responsibility and burden of being a refugee project founder, highly driven, passionate and with little fear, comes bitterness and hate from people you barely know and people who claim to be your friend but really aren't. 

So I run the year through my mind, and can't help but take it personally - because it's what makes me who I am. If I didn't take things personally, then I wouldn't be doing this work. 

I facilitated a LOT of aid (and still do). Caravans, tents, vehicles, food, building materials, firewood, medical aid, education, comfort. It is hard work, exhausting, and at times stressful. I'm not perfect. I'm far from it. my paperwork is shoddy, I forget things, I overwork myself and have incredibly crazy ideas. I neglect myself frequently and put nearly everyone else's needs above my own.
Those crazy ideas actually start things amazing. So I don't regret one single one of them. My intentions are honourable. 

In those volunteering hours I give myself freely, completely and knowing that not one single refugee will ever know me, who I am, what I did. What I do has no glamour, no back patting - in fact its kind of an empty feeling when you never really actually see the results of the work you do. But I know. I know so so much how it feels to be given a bag full of food by a total stranger, that was collected and donated by others. Sorted, then selected and given to me, to feed MY family. That feeling alone is enough to have driven a whole year of planning, growing, developing a continuous flow of aid.
So, I push, promote, beg, borrow, share all day long to try to give to others, who will never know me, because I can. I can and I will, and no amount of barriers will stop me because I run the 'fuck you' gauntlet. Tell me I can't - and 'fuck you' I'll do it. 

Despite this, and my absolute heart of gold, and dedication, my reflecting brought tears. Tears of deep sadness and a heartfelt empty lack of understanding of just one thing .... volunteer bullying.
Volunteer bullying is actually the most significant thing I personally flashback to in the last year. I battle it daily to still help those who need it. I battle it so well that most people don't even know I do it. But actually - Happy Calaisversary - I actually don't need to hide behind anything/anyone because actually, I do good. 

For the life of me I can't get my head around why people who claim to want to help others, can spend so long trying to destroy others, undermining each others projects, back stabbing, sabotaging and causing deliberate harm - just because they don't entirely agree with your exact way of working or because they changed their mind after donating something, or because they broke a deal they didn't understand. 

Frienemies - those who pretend to be your friend to gather intel and undermine. A word I learned in this field of work. 

My way of working works for me. I don't ask anyone to accept it, I just get on with it - like a machine. It produces results not friends. You don't have to work with me - but you certainly don't need to try and stop me. If it's not to your liking, then set up your own project and leave mine alone. I deliver results whether you like it or not. I don't need anyone's approval to achieve this.
I was bullied and bitched about so hard by some Calais volunteers that I actually stopped going. I was told by one of the largest organizations there that if I helped another organization that they would have to sever ties with me. I saved them the trouble. I refuse to be pulled into aid blocking games because of personality clashes. I send aid to BOTH warehouses and will continue to do so.
Volunteer politics is bullshit. I won't play.  
I cut most of my personal ties and interaction. Diverted my focus onto the bigger picture. I then followed the physical route back to front myself to see a refugee journey. To see really if I could do something more.  It helped and I do. 

I went underground in Calais to avoid the judgement. I now send aid incognito. Why am I telling you? Well it goes back to the gauntlet - 'fuck you'. It's NOT about volunteers, it's about the people we help. I help because I want to help, not because of what a anyone says to me.

When people collect aid from my warehouse for Calais - I actually make them promise not to say where it came from. In reality it doesn't matter where it came from. I don't need the thanks - they need the aid, so I just get on with it. I had a dream that I could make a long term difference by actually creating a not for profit business that was supported by the refugee crisis that would feed back into the refugee crisis. 

I set up a project where I could turn returned rejected aid into useful aid and have so far managed to turn 5 returned 40ft lorries of bad aid into 4 x 40ft containers of good aid, and thousands of pounds of other aid. Sadly, because of misunderstandings and lack of basic communication, I almost lost everything when one organization pulled the plug because they didn't get it ..... however my strength and determination to overcome volunteer issues means I continue to send aid and let people think what they like. 

Where am I now, one year on? Stronger, more determined, caring less and less about what people think about me, and more and more about how to deliver as much aid as I can possibly facilitate. I frequently step in and support other volunteers who experience bullying and help them to learn a way around it to continue to deliver what aid they can. 

A year of delete and block on facebook was the equivalent to not watching the drivel and poison from live TV. I actually was able a few weeks ago to unblock them all - because I'm finally free.

 I have watched a great many highly intelligent, awesome, passionate and driven people get shot down now, and accept that its never going to go away, and the only way through it is to not see it anymore. I hope that by my honesty - that they will gain strength, knowing that if someone else came out the other side - they can too. I'm proud of what I do. I love my work. I don't need approval. I don't need thanks. What I actually want is peace and freedom to just get on with it ..... I made my own peace.

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