Corazon Miller is a NZ Herald reporter

Refugees' grim plight moves Kiwis to help

Volunteers roll up sleeves in effort to show outside world cares, writes Corazon Miller.
The plight of refugees like those in Greece has appalled many of those trying to help them. Photo / AP
The plight of refugees like those in Greece has appalled many of those trying to help them. Photo / AP

Compelled by the plight of thousands of refugees flocking to Europe, a number of Kiwi expats have been moved to do more than just watch.

Tom, 29, who lives and works in London, spent his Easter weekend with partner Aimee in the Calais "jungle".

The Herald agreed not to use the pair's surnames at their request.

The jungle is the nickname given to the refugee camp near the French port-side city where thousands of refugees from Syria, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Sudan, Yemen and a number of other countries were living.

The remnants of the 'Jungle' refugee camp in Calais, France. Photo / Supplied
The remnants of the 'Jungle' refugee camp in Calais, France. Photo / Supplied

Tom said after regularly talking with friends about how "mental" the refugee situation was he decided to act.

"We got a bit sick of just talking about it."

So the pair spent Easter helping aid workers sort out donated goods near the refugee encampment.

He said walking through the southern side of the camp, which had recently been demolished by French authorities, was surreal.

Tom described the area, which he said was the size of six football pitches, as desolate and sombre.

"It was incredibly cold, and really windy, walking over this desolate wasteland, I felt like ... something terrible had happened that I wasn't comfortable with."

Thinking of those forced to leave the area, and the many others living in the as yet still intact northern part of the camp, he couldn't help but wonder what it would be like if the roles were reversed.

"I'd be pretty disgusted at the way I was treated ... with everyone wanting to pass me on to the next country."

One Kiwi volunteer described  the atmosphere of the  Calais  migrant camp known as the "jungle" as desolate and sombre. Photo / AP
One Kiwi volunteer described the atmosphere of the Calais migrant camp known as the "jungle" as desolate and sombre. Photo / AP

As sobering as the experience was, Tom said the couple hoped to regularly volunteer at refugee camps to do what they could to help.

Meanwhile, another Kiwi expat, Sophia Duckor-Jones, planned to devote three months of her OE to helping those refugees who'd made it to Greece.

Being at the Keleti station in Budapest last year when thousands of refugees were stranded was a turning point for her.

"I was pretty naive, I knew about the situation in Syria ... [but] I guess I didn't really know about the true horrors of the war until I saw these refugees first hand."

While Ms Duckor-Jones had worked hard to raise funds and give those who were stranded food and water, she had also felt guilty she was able to just continue on with her travels.

"Nothing could erase the faces that I saw," she said. "This is my chance to get out there again and help as much as I can."

Her first stop is a refugee camp in Ritsona, just outside Athens, where she planned to help with the hundreds living there.

After that she intended to head to other refugee camps and organisations who might need her help.

She was even considering heading to Turkey after her three months in Greece.

"I want to remind them that the world does care, and that there are people doing all they can to help them."

- NZ Herald

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