Boots for the Calais RefugeesHelp Now!

Boots without Borders

Why boots? Why brand new?

Click here for Lizzy's description of a boot distribution in the camp.

The people in The Jungle need lots of very basic things - food, clothing, shelter. It's difficult to know where to start, but some things are in more demand than others and volunteer aid workers are reporting a great demand for waterproof footwear. Getting boots to the residents of the camp is very hard because the demand is so high. We saw twenty volunteers struggling to keep control of the crowd when distributing a few boxes of second-hand cast-off boots. Many people wear flip-flops, or undersized trainers with the heels pushed down (like slippers).

Wellies aren't much use. They get stuck in the mud and without decent socks (which are a nightmare when they get wet) they're cold.

It's not difficult to understand why good, solid boots are so desirable if you're living under a tarpaulin on a cold, rain-soaked landfill site. Bad shoes are painful, cold, wet, sometimes dangerous, and they don't last. Good boots are comfy, warm, dry, safe and, I hope, will carry their wearers to a better life.

Even with "standard" UK or European sizes, it's difficult to match the right boot size to the right person, especially in such demanding conditions as the camp. Donating second-hand clothing and footwear is a great thing to do, but the process of collecting it, transporting it, sorting it and distributing it is very hard and takes a lot of volunteer man-hours. Also, the requirements in the camp are fairly specific - men's boots are needed, with a smaller average size than in the UK.

Supplying an Oxfam shop with second-hand goods is one thing. Trying to resource a 6000-person shanty town with cast-offs is something else entirely: sorting, distribution, transport and storage are the issue.

Buying a large consignment of men's boots not only ensures good quality, it also makes distribution infinitely easier and it means we can take the types and sizes the camp actually needs. Wholesale, I can get new boots cheaply. Trying to find 500 pairs of quality-checked second hand boots is almost impossible.

It's also a matter of human dignity. The people who live in the camp are suffering - with love, community spirit and a little bit of generosity, we can give them something we'd be happy to wear ourselves. I buy new shoes for my children without a second thought. In this small way, Lizzy and I want 500 people in the Calais Jungle to feel loved and cared for, too.