MMost people would consider clean water, food, and clothing to be essentials, but a phone might not be considered a necessity. Yet for the thousands of men, women and children displaced in refugee camps across Europe, they are a vital link to their homes.
Today, a local organization offers refugees help to maintain ties with their families. Facebook group members Telephone credit for refugees and displaced persons can respond directly to an individual’s request for help, sending them £ 20 through the group to top up their phone.
James Pearce, 32, a social worker from Norfolk, started doing volunteer runs in the Calais jungle earlier this year. He was struck by the number of people, especially unaccompanied children, desperate to speak to their loved ones. He started the group in February and was quickly joined by others who saw the humanizing effect a medium of communication could have on a lonely and fearful person in a foreign land.
Aziz, 29, from Afghanistan, assistant to a deputy, lives in a Red Cross camp in Belgium. He told the group members: “Refugees who exactly need your help, they will never forget your one penny of aid (sic) because we have left our loved ones in war, in darkness, and you help us connect with them.
This simple gesture of recognizing someone not just as a case of charity, but as a human being, suffering the grief of a forced separation, is what has driven so many to join Pearce in his efforts. The group has grown to 20,000 members and raised nearly £ 100,000, but the pile of requests grows daily and Pearce fears they may not be able to meet the demand.
“My hope for the group is that we will be able to grow to the size necessary to meet the needs that exist,” he said. “And in the process, that we can humanize and raise the profile of those caught up in the refugee crisis among ordinary people.”
Already working alongside the Calais youth services and the local women’s center, Pearce wants a major charity already involved in the refugee crisis to support their efforts and allow them to broaden their scope.