England

Couple overwhelmed with donations for Calais migrants

Jaz O'Hara in Calais Image copyright The Worldwide Tribe
Image caption Jaz O'Hara first visited the Jungle camp in Calais to make a documentary for her travel blog

A couple who began collecting donations for the migrant camp at Calais after a visit to the site left them shocked at conditions, say they have been overwhelmed by the response.

Jaz O'Hara visited the camp with boyfriend Dan Teuma intending to make a documentary for her travel blog.

She wrote a Facebook post about what she saw that was shared more than 60,000 times in a few days.

Now she has raised more than £132,000 and collected vans full of supplies.

Image copyright The Worldwide Tribe
Image caption About 3,000 migrants are camping in Calais, many intent on trying to reach the UK

"Basically the post was just raw and emotional," said Ms O'Hara, from Tunbridge Wells in Kent.

"I was really emotional about the time we were there and what I'd seen.

"It took us about an hour to drive from Tunbridge Wells to Dover, and it is a world apart from Kent."

The couple hoped to raise a small amount of money to fund their documentary but set up a JustGiving page as donations grew.

They also set up an organisation, CalAid, to collect clothing, tents and camping equipment.


Migrant crisis in Calais

The 3,000 or so migrants camped in Calais are part of a wider surge of people into Europe from north Africa and the Middle East.

Daily attempts have been made by those in the camp to stow away on lorries headed for Eurotunnel and the ferry ports, and on the Le Shuttle trains.

Additional security measures put into place at the Eurotunnel terminal in August reduced the number of attempts to break in to the terminal.


"We are collecting donated goods from across the country - from Scotland to Wales to Cornwall and everywhere in between," said London CalAid volunteer Siobhan Wall.

"The response is fantastic - we are overwhelmed.

"We have had hundreds and hundreds of tents from festivals in Reading and Leeds and donations from people who are collecting from friends and family and colleagues."

Image copyright The World Wide Tribe
Image caption Donations of clothing and camping equipment have been arriving from across the country
Image copyright The World Wide Tribe
Image caption Hundreds of tents were donated from the Reading and Leeds festivals
Image copyright PA
Image caption Hundreds of donations were taken to a warehouse in Dalston on Sunday ready to be loaded up and driven to Calais on Monday
Image copyright PA
Image caption Boxes of baked beans and other tinned goods were donated, along with clothing and camping equipment

Hundreds of people donated boxes and bags of clothes, blankets, tents and food which were gathered together at a warehouse in Dalston, north-east London ready to be taken to Calais in a convoy of 40 vans on Monday.

Among them was Green Party leader Natalie Bennett, who donated walking boots and helped to shift boxes and said she was overwhelmed at the outpouring of support she had seen.

Ms O'Hara said: "Today feels amazing.

"It shows the power of social media - it has provided people with a channel and opportunity to do something."

She has been visiting Calais with donations on a regular basis and intends to continue into the winter.

The items are taken to a charity warehouse in France for distribution there.

Ms O'Hara has not yet had access to any of the JustGiving funds and says she wants to be sure of making the best use of it for people in the camp.

"We will be very transparent about how we spend the money because it's public money and it's very important," she said.

"We are hoping to apply for charitable status and get a financial adviser.

"This has all happened so quickly."

See more about the CalAid story in Inside OUT on BBC One on 7 September at 19:30 BST and nationwide on the iPlayer for 30 days thereafter.

More on this story

Around the BBC

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites