By Belgium and United Kingdom Relief Teams (Originally in English)
Responding to Master’s expression of deep concern for the refugees, during December 2015, our Belgian and United Kingdom Association members formed relief teams and visited a refugee camp in Dunkirk, France to provide assistance.
The camp in Dunkirk, France has existed for almost 10 years, and most of the people there are Kurds. In recent months, the population has increased from 600 to over 2,000 due to the immigration of new refugees. Despite their traumatic experiences and the very difficult living conditions at the camp, they continue being hopeful and work well together with volunteers.
Helping with Maintenance and Bringing Necessities to Dunkirk Camp – December 15 and 19, 2015
On December 15, our Belgian team visited Dunkirk camp to find out the needs of the refugees. The volunteers told us they needed help with cleaning, building structures and in the kitchen. We helped sort out the donated clothes while we were there.
Four days later, we returned to the camp with our United Kingdom team to distribute vegan food and necessary items to the refugees. These supplies were purchased with contributions from our local Association members as well as those from China, Formosa and Iceland. As only food is allowed into the camp, we carried all the 500 tote bags containing vegan food and snacks and “Those Who Have Love Are Nearest to God” flyers with Master’s comforting words in Arabic and English, inside with the assistance of many refugees. Outside the camp, we distributed most of the supplies such as sleeping bags, underwear, boots and wind-up lanterns. The remaining relief items will be taken to the distribution center in the camp by the French organization Emmaus of Dunkirk. Before leaving, we cleaned the rubbish in the area as well. We pray the refugees will soon find permanent, warm homes in which to begin their new lives.
Meeting Loving Refugees at Dunkirk Camp – December 21, 2015
Over the past few days, our Belgian and United Kingdom relief team continued to clean, distribute necessities and help refugees at the Dunkirk camp in France. During the stay, it has been very touching to see the loving attitude of the refugees as they greeted and thanked volunteers, and helped out when needed. We realized that although material aid is very important, heart-to-heart connections are equally important.
On December 21, we heard the story of a Kurdish woman, Roonak, who is running a small communal kitchen in the camp and her son, Besh, who is one of the refugee representatives. Roonak is an author and poet, and cooks delicious plant-based food for the refugees in the camp such as healthful, simple dishes with onion, tomato and rice.
Besh told us that he and his mother were separated for 45 days on their journey to France from Syria. They traveled by foot, train and car through numerous countries. After being separated in Greece, they both kept strong faith that they would find each other again, and followed their intuition. Finally, they were reunited at Dunkirk. Ever since, Roonak has been cooking in this small kitchen for at least 20 to 30 people every day, and Besh has been working alongside volunteers, cooking, translating and taking care of other refugees. Both mother and son are waiting patiently for the day they can enter the United Kingdom. Besh told us, “This waiting is like an exam for us, if we have strong faith we will pass the exam.”
Emergency Relief Work at Dunkirk Camp – January 11, 2016
After heavy rainfall, the conditions in the refugee camp in Dunkirk had become worse than anybody could imagine, and was in desperate need of humanitarian assistance. The London Evening Standard reported that the camp is in need of lavatories and washing facilities, there are rats present, and once clothes are dirty they have to be thrown out because there is no place to wash or dry them. Also, the tents and shelters are not adequate for the cold and wet winter.
To improve the conditions at the camp, on January 11, the mayor of Grande Synthe allowed tents and wooden pallets to be brought into the camp for one day. Aid Box Convoy (ABC) from Bristol, United Kingdom, called for support from independent groups to bring as many big tents, tarps, pallets, ropes and black bin bags as possible.
Therefore, a team of nine of our Association members from the United Kingdom and Belgium joined the one-day emergency action at Dunkirk. Thanks to God’s grace, we were able to quickly acquire 25 six-people tents in the United Kingdom and a big 50-square-meter tent in Belgium. We also bought 190 sleeping bags, 20 thick blankets, 14 tarps, 11 rolls of 20 strong bin bags and 40 meters of rope, and arrived early at the camp. The ABC coordinators wanted to make sure our good quality supplies got in first, especially the big tent. The police officers and the council workers were all very helpful with our delivery.
After all goods were unloaded, we tried our best to clean up the area that would be used to put up the new tents. A few refugees including a child joined us in cleaning. We also meditated to bring Master’s blessing to the distressed people.
Many other volunteer groups from Belgium, France and the United Kingdom also arrived, bringing requested materials. It was heartwarming to see so many groups acting within such short notice, and everyone working together as a big family with a single goal in mind: to improve the living conditions of the refugees as much as possible.
We felt deeply grateful and humbled for the opportunity to bring Master’s love and blessings to our fellow human beings. We hope humanity will open their hearts and borders and allow a New Era of love and peace for all to manifest.
Experiencing the Gratitude and Faith of Refugees at Dunkirk Camp – January 18, 2016
On January 18, our Belgium relief team visited Dunkirk refugee camp again and delivered 100 wind-up lanterns, some thick comforters, and a variety of vegan foods including hundreds of muesli bars, biscuits, organic figs and soft drinks. We handed out some items personally and left the remaining supplies for the distribution center.
While we were there, another volunteer group, Building Support Through Shelter, arrived with a van full of firewood, crucial for survival in the freezing weather. We were told people have been very generous with giving firewood, especially in Belgium and the United Kingdom.
In the cozy kitchen run by Roonak, a Kurdish woman we previously met lovingly known as “Mother” of the camp, we chatted with the refugees. We told them every day we are praying for them and for leaders to make positive changes to better their situation, and that we stand with them all the time. They told us they also hold hands and pray together, and expressed their gratitude and understanding. In this little hut with only two walls and a simple stove, we experienced the warmest moments of humanity and faith in God.
Expenditures by The Supreme Master Ching Hai International Association for Refugee Relief Work in Dunkirk, France, December 15, 2015 to January 18, 2016
|Food (biscuits, holiday mince pies, energy bars, instant soup and pasta, tonic drinks, gum, fruits etc.) and supplies (sleeping bags, snow boots, lanterns, under garments, cleaning gloves, aprons, torches, sleeping foam pad mats etc.)||7,201.89||A|
|Travel and other expenses for the relief team||2,176.89|
|Supplies (tents, sleeping bags, blankets, duvets, lanterns, ropes, bin bags and tarps) for the refugees, gloves and tools for the volunteers, and transportation||8,758.27||B|
|Total|| GBP 18,137.05