A warmer welcome for Afghan refugees: BCMS and Care4Calais

Rebecca Greenhill writes: I couldn’t see the images of families fleeing Afghanistan this year and not want to help in some way. While financial contributions are great, sometimes it is even better to do something practical – something that will have a tangible, actual benefit to the people affected, and offer a warmer welcome to refugees arriving in the UK.

BCMS has a long history of supporting charitable causes, so when we heard about the amazing initiatives run by refugee crisis organisation Care4Calais, we decided as a business to offer some hands-on assistance. We got in touch with Dawn Purver, from the Reading centre for Care4Calais, who is organising the delivery of everyday essentials – underwear and toiletries – to refugee arrivals in our local area.

A tote-ally brilliant concept

The idea was simple: fill a tote bag with a welcome pack, one per person, comprising three pairs of pants, five pairs of socks, shower gel, deodorant, toothpaste and a toothbrush, plus additional sanitary products. The totes themselves were hand-made by a local craft group, and we at BCMS committed to filling 100 such bags – 40 for men, 40 for women and 20 for children – and tasked colleagues here with actively hitting the shops.

The simple act of buying these items for someone else (and someone you don’t know) is an incredibly rewarding exercise. It creates a kind of ‘personal’ connection to the individuals you’re trying to help. I know some of my colleagues found the experience hugely fulfilling. One took his teenager out on a father-daughter bonding trip specifically to get the items we were missing. Friends, family and professional connections got involved – it became a true team effort.

Hands-on help: 100 bags delivered

It was my job to coordinate the purchasing and delivery of the items and get the team to bring their items into the office. Where would we store it? At one point last week our kitchen area here in the Newbury HQ was heaving with stuff: I have never seen so much toothpaste in my life!

Pictured, left to right: BCMS delivers the welcome bags at Reading’s Care4Calais centre; Rebecca Greenhill handling operations at our Newbury HQ

We delivered our 100 bags to the Care4Calais Collection Point in Reading in early October and some of the BCMS team were privileged to meet some refugees in person, speaking via an interpreter. That’s when you know you have made a difference.

It doesn’t stop here, though. With winter approaching, there is a need for warm clothing, so we are currently running an appeal for BCMS staff to donate coats and jackets for men, women and children.
Care4Calais is entirely run by volunteers, and the organisation has programmes up and down the country to assist. To find out more and get involved, visit their website.

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