Our online fundraiser to support displaced communities in Calais proves social distancing doesn't mean social apathy


13 May 2020

On Wednesday 6 May, Our Future Now (OFN) held an online fundraiser in support of the work of Calais Food Collective (CFC), an organisation providing essential food services for displaced communities in Calais and Dunkirk in France. Over 2000 refugees from various war-torn places are currently displaced in Northern France, and have found themselves in a perpetual state of uncertainty and marginalisation as European countries reject their claims to asylum.

Abdul, a young refugee living in Calais, participated in the fundraiser to speak on his experience of leaving Afghanistan in search of a better and safer life. He spoke of crossing multiple borders, each with their own unique violence enacted against him, and being imprisoned and facing police violence at multiple border sites from Iran and Pakistan to Bulgaria, Serbia and, later on, France. Abdul spoke with a determination about his persistence in living a dignified life, one where he isn’t constantly expecting death around every corner and where he is seen as a fellow human being rather than an ostracized stranger. Speaking of his work for fellow displaced people in the community, he expressed his resilience at the idea that he ‘needs help’ by volunteers, instead talking of building spaces for himself and other displaced people where they can mutually aid each other despite the difficult circumstances they find themselves in.

Abdul’s testimonies shone a light on the resilience, courage and strength characterising displaced communities all over the world. In the face of war, trauma, and untold horror, people like Abdul cling to their humanity even when they are denied it and find solidarity, friendship, and love in the harshest of conditions. These conditions are however not god-given or natural, they are politically designed and can be easily lifted if those with more secure citizenship status and their representatives acknowledge the humanity of those Othered for reasons outside of their control.

Musical and poetry acts throughout the evening also touched on these matters, from Jelly Cleaver’s jazzy performance of powerful protest anthems, to poetry by talented poets Omar Koshin, Razzan Alkhayat, and Carlos Mauricio Rojas. The evening’s MC and one of the performers, Alex Etchart, filled the evening with songs of resistance and hope, and helped hold a touching tribute for a Iraqi child refugee whose life was sadly cut short in Calais.

The evening also saw scaled down performances from Radio Porridge’s Dana Margolin who played some of the band’s classics as well as debuting new sounds, and Goat Girl’s Lottie Pendlebury and Rosy Jones who played classics and finished their set with a very special performance of Smash Mouth’s “All Star”.

The fundraiser, streamed through Zoom and Facebook Live, shows that social distancing does not mean social apathy. More than ever, we are reliant on communities of mutual aid and solidarity to fight for dignity and social justice for all. The difficulty of the situation in Calais is far from over, and the displaced communities there will increasingly need the aid and support of those with the means to do so. The Collective will continue accepting donations throughout the pandemic, and will also need extra hands on deck once travel restrictions are lifted. For more information on the work of the collective and insight into the situation in Calais, follow them here.

A luta continua.

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