We were pleased to host a celebration event following a volunteering project, which saw local young people visit Calais in France to gain new skills and experiences to understand first-hand some of the challenges faced by refugees. On Friday 7th February, the group came together once more for a special event held at Wayland Hall to celebrate and reflect on the achievement of the trip.

Six young people from Breckland embarked on the three day volunteer project in Calais in August 2019, working with Help Refugees UK to support refugees sleeping rough in former ‘Jungle’ sites on the French coast.

The project, funded by Breckland Youth Advisory Board and Breckland Council, was aimed at exploring diversity and attitudes towards refugees and migration.

The Benjamin Foundation Youth Work Services Operations Manager, Claire Boothby Barnbrook explains:

“The six young people who took part, participated in four preparation workshops in the run up to the trip, where they learnt about resilience, diversity and equality issues, as well as planning for the trip away.”

The group were given a tour of the Help Refugees UK warehouse, which receives donations of clothes, food and equipment from France and the UK, and talks from one of the Project Coordinators and the local Refugee Women’s Centre.  These talks helped give the group some understanding of the issues faced by refugees on their way to Calais, once they arrive and what their futures are likely to hold.

Claire continues: “We performed a number of volunteer roles during our visit, from sorting donated sleeping bags, to sorting clothes for specific gender and age groups for new arrivals in Calais, to cleaning tarpaulins that could be used as makeshift shelters, to working the kitchen helping prepare the 1500 meals a day that the Refugee Kitchen distributes throughout Calais and Dunkirk. Overall it was a massive learning experience for young people and staff alike, and hugely rewarding.”

The celebration event reflected on experiences and learning followed by a presentation of certificates by Councillor Pat Warwick, Mayor of Watton.

The young people who took part said:

“I enjoyed it and I felt like I meant something and that I was helping someone else.”

“I wish more young people could get this opportunity to see what is really happening in the world out there.”

Since taking part in the project, some of the young people have been inspired to raise money for Refugees UK and The Benjamin Foundation by taking part in the Norwich Sleep Out in November, with another member supporting our charity with our recruitment processes.

Claire concludes: “Thank you to everybody who funded and supported the project, providing local young people with a valuable and memorable volunteer experience.”

I consider myself very lucky to work for The Benjamin Foundation- I have been encouraged and supported to take on more challenges and can honestly say I am never bored!

Member of our staff team

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