Hall Green opera singer volunteers at Calais jungle to help Syrian refugees - The Solihull Observer

Hall Green opera singer volunteers at Calais jungle to help Syrian refugees

Solihull Editorial 15th Dec, 2016   0

A HALL Green opera singer moved by the plight of refugees has sacrificed her career to volunteer in Calais and support those in desperate need.

When three-year-old Alan Kurdi’s lifeless body washed up on a Turkish beach last summer, Lizzy Cragg knew she could not idly stand by.

Packing her bags, self-employed soprano Lizzy headed to the former ‘Jungle’ refugee camp on the outskirts of Calais.

She explained: “It really hit me when my daughter got so upset by the picture she’d seen on the front page of the paper showing a boy, the same age as her brother, just lying there in the sand.

“It was an awakening for her that the world is not always a good place for me and it was an awakening for me too.

“My first visit to the Calais jungle was in early March 2016, towards the end of the demolition of the Southern Zone, and what I saw and experienced in that first brief trip changed me completely.

“That people were living in these conditions between two of the richest nations in the world sickened and appalled me.

“And yet, I was so amazed by their resourcefulness and resilience in the face of it all.”

Only able to do short trips across the Channel because of the children, Lizzy noticed a call from the charity Care 4 Calais which was asking for children to draw pictures for its latest campaign.

And when one of the charity workers got in contact to ask if they could use the image, Lizzy asked how she could help.

So when her children went on holiday with her ex-husband to Canada during the summer holiday she went to Calais for a month to volunteer for the charity – providing urgently needed humanitarian assistance to refugees in Calais and northern France.

Lizzy added: “Without romanticising, despite its squalor, the lawlessness, the brutality, I found in the Jungle a kind of twisted utopia.

“Refugees and volunteers working together to improve the conditions.

“It was beautiful in its celebration of diversity and humanity. A unique community of people working together and caring for one another in the face of such adversity.

“There was so much love.”

But when the French authorities demolished the Jungle camp in October, all the refugees were scattered over the country, some living in holding areas, while others risking their lives living on the streets.

Since then, Lizzy and other Care 4 Calais volunteers have been trying to lobby the French and British governments to recognise the plight of the unaccompanied children left behind in the camps, as well as distributing clothes and donations.

“We have taken on the role of peace keepers and news distributors – telling them they will be arrested if they try stay on the streets.

“The police are stopping anyone found sleeping on the streets who doesn’t ‘look French’ and asking to see their papers.

“But news travels slowly and people are still turning up in Calais, having not heard the news that the camp they had heard so much about is no longer there.”

And as the season of giving approaches, Lizzy is urging Silhillians to think about how they can help those less fortunate by getting involved in charities like Care 4 Calais.

By donating clothes, food, household items or even time to volunteer at English classes or as an Arabic, Pashto or French interpreter, she said everyone can do their bit to help.

“These migrants, refugees, or whatever you call them are just people – with families and the same hopes and dreams as everyone.

“And I understand people’s fears but I urge them to give them a chance.

“As I saw in the Calais camp, all it takes is a lot of singular, small acts of kindess for someone’s life to change.”

Visit www.care4calais.org to find out more about the charity, to become a volunteer and to make a donation.

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