Volunteering – Warehouse

At Auberge des Migrants the day starts at about 9:00 o’clock with a warm up led by Hettie the coordinator. After stretches, hip rotations, and balancing on one leg it is down to business.

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Hettie explains the drill:-

  • park on this side of the road
  • high viz. vests and no smoking in the warehouse
  • loos are round the corner, may be disgusting
  • migrants requested women wear loose trousers and tie hair back in the jungle
  • if you’re tired, take a break, help yourself to tea or coffee, stay fit and well
  • free lunch is at about 1:00 o’clock, the same food the migrants get. Delicious!

Then on to the inspirational part of the speech:-

  • we are here to help and make a positive difference
  • working in the warehouse is as beneficial as going to the jungle
  • only go to the jungle if you are given a specific task
  • the jungle is not a zoo

The number of volunteers differs from day to day, from about 25 to 100 or more during school holidays. Jobs are allocated by skill or by being picked from the crowd:-

  • building, making living structures, covers for water points etc.
  • kitchen, preparing and cooking food for migrants and volunteers
  • interpreters, can help with producing information documents
  • warehouse duties
  • women’s centre
  • distribution
  • litter picking for the ones that are left

The people in orange know the drill, you go to them with questions. If you can see a better way of doing something discuss it with your orange coat.

You soon realise that the number of volunteers change enormously from day to day. If you are in the warehouse you will soon be the expert and don the orange high viz. There are some that have been there for months, they coordinate and rally people for bigger tasks such as unloading lorries.

Clothes

The mountain of clothes increases and decreases depending upon the generosity of the public and whether there is a special request for needed items. People may bring a car full of clothes, or an articulated lorry may arrive full of semi sorted donations.

Bags are split open and clothes checked for cleanliness, buttons and working zips. Vintage and special garments like saris are put to one side to be sold separately through charity shops or specialist vintage shops. Rejected items go to Cash for Clothes, so nothing is wasted. Good garments are thrown onto the sizing table where they are measured and placed into the appropriate plastic box, men’s one side and women’s the other.

When the plastic boxes fill up, they are taken to the boxing up area and placed into cardboard boxes. A tally is kept on the box and once full they are sealed and an orange label is attached to identify the contents and the quantity, they are placed on pallets for the shelf stackers. The shelf-stackers try to find an appropriate space to store the boxes ready for being picked for distribution. Shoes are a premium item, small men’s sizes between 41 and 43 are always in demand. They want black trainers as they do not show up in the dark and it is easier to run in them, though not practical for the jungle as it can be very wet and muddy.

Children’s Clothes

Children’s clothes are sorted in a separate area. There are about 500 minors in the camp ranging from new born babies to older teens who fit into the small men’s cloths. Another area puts together hygiene kits that include toothbrush and paste, soap, shower gel, toilet roll, wet wipes and two condoms. These hygiene kits are part of the men’s full kits distributed each weekend. Women choose their own hygiene products in the women’s centre.

Tents, sleeping bags and kits

The Human Chain

The human chain is used to load and unload lorries. Many hands do make light work. Here, the mountain of ‘Cash for clothes’ bags are moved onto a lorry.

Food 

Food is an incredibly important part of the warehouse function. There are two ways they support the migrants; either by putting together food bags which are distributed to people who cook for themselves, or via the kitchen that makes about 1,000 meals every day for the Jungle. There are also emergency food bags, each of which feed ten people.

Tons of food is donated or bought to make the meals that are distributed in the Jungle. Vegetables are prepared the day before ready for cooking. Only vegetarian food goes to the Jungle as many migrants do not eat meat.

The food bags need to contain oil for cooking and only tins with ring pulls as there are not enough tin openers to go round. Food that can be eaten cold is also necessary as the supply of gas for cooking can be problematic so they need to be able to eat when supplies have run out.

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