November 2, 2023, by Arts Placements

Global Placement Grant – My Experience

My Experience in Calais

by Ellie Finbow 3rd year History and Politics student

This summer, I volunteered with Care4Calais; a placement part funded by the Faculty of Arts Global Placement Grant. It was only a week, but I learnt lessons that will last a lifetime.

A Typical Day

The working days at Calais are long and pretty tough. It is 9-6 with some pretty physical work, especially with the weather being so hot. But every minute volunteering there was worth it; the tents I checked I knew would go to a family with real need of them. The donations I sorted would make someone’s day. I supervised makeshift hair salons, and gave out cups of water at refugee sites. I had the most insightful conversations with the people who came to the sites in need of Care4Calais’ services. I really believed in the work I was doing in Calais, whether I was in the warehouse or out on site. The evenings were either spent at the beach or in a Calais bar, hanging out with other volunteers and talking about the day.

Kindness and Inspiration

I saw so much kindness in that week.  From everyone – the refugees and the volunteers. The refugees at the sites we visited were so kind; they saw our vans and came over to help as soon as we started unpacking. On one of the busier sites, I only had to look at a heavy object before I was assisted. My favourite part of the week was going to the distribution sites; just learning about so many cultures, and so many journeys was so inspiring.

There are many charities working collectively in Calais and other areas of France, all doing different things to help the refugees. Some like Project Play work to provide the children in Calais with some enjoyment. Others like Refugee Community Kitchen aim to provide the basic necessity of a meal to the people in need. Others work to protect women and give them a safe and private space.

Care4Calais provides general services to people in Calais and distributes donations; it’s service users are predominantly young males. Donations like clothes, shoes, and electronics, and services like hot drinks, charging points for phones, hairdressing stations, and games. When I visited I met people from Sudan, Eritrea, Afghanistan, Iraq, Vietnam and more. I heard stories from around the world, of different cultures, that inspired me. These people flee persecution, war, climate change – and yet they manage to keep their heads held high. Care4Calais, with the work it does in France, the UK, and elsewhere, really makes a difference.

Fuelling my passion

This volunteering placement was very insightful to me. I benefitted hugely employability-wise, as I aspire for a career in the charity/ government sector. I’m appreciative for the Global Placement Grant, as it gave me access to the opportunity, and took some weight off the fundraising we did before. Saying that, going to Calais as a placement was very accessible and did not cost much in regards to other global placements further away. I initially found the people to go to Calais with through the UoN InterVol (International Volunteering) society and recommend reaching out to the society and getting involved.

I regularly volunteer with refugees in Nottingham through the STAR (Student Action for Refugees) and British Red Cross societies.  Getting involved with these societies has been a highlight of my university experience! Going to Calais really fuelled my passion for the charity sector. It helped me understand part of the journey of refugees, before they come here.

I am so grateful for the placement in Calais, even more grateful that I am writing this in such a privileged position. I encourage everyone reading this to volunteer with them. It is truly an atmosphere of hope and kindness. Every volunteer and refugee had a heart of gold, and there was this brilliant community feel to every day. We all were trying to make the world a better place.


Posted in Global Placement GrantVolunteering