One year ago today RCK served its very first meals to the refugee’s and volunteers living and working in the refugee camp in Calais, France called ‘The Jungle’.
Our first day we served 500 hot and healthy meals. On the menu that day was rice, dahl, salad, fresh fruit, bread and a drink. All produced from donated food from the UK and cooked by chefs and volunteers who gave up their normal lives to come and make a difference to others. It was the start of a year that we was not expecting when we decided to help in the growing crisis across the small stretch water in France.
We have seen some horrific days whilst on service to both Calais and Dunkirk camps in the past year, what with the police brutality during weekly raids and often random daily tear gassing for no apparent reason to the abhorrent living conditions that the refugees have had to endure since fleeing the various horrors of their own countries, be it wars, dictatorships, hunger, climate change, religious hatred, poverty, sexual harassment or those that are just seeking a better life in the ‘Humane’ west..
Over the year we have seen the RCK kitchen and family change and grow into a beautiful thing. When asked by many what is the main ingredient used in our kitchen, Sam Jones founder and our constant head chef and fixer of all things, answers without the skip of a heartbeat. “LOVE, it’s in every meal”, Everyone washing up for hours/days and chopping the veg, stirring the pots, serving the food, stacking the shelves, filling the food parcels, sweeping the yard, folding the socks, building the shelters, chopping the wood, distributing the clothes, setting up the distribution systems, installing the water and electrics, sitting with the people in the camps and listening to there stories of how they got here and how they lived before choosing to take the first step of a horrific journey that has now brought them here. To a place that none of them ever imagined they would be. To a reception from our Governments that they never knew they would get.
Our emphasis has always been to serve food that is healthy, and still we have no compromise there. We would only cook fresh vegetables and only ever serve fresh bread and we always adhered to the cultural cooking rules of the people we were serving. The rare times we served meat is was always Halal, we took care in what went into the food and food parcels that were sent out to show RESPECT for peoples beliefs even when they were not our beliefs.
One word soon became the word that was used when thinking of new ways to help the refugees in the camps. The word is DIGNITY. We heard it when chefs were deciding what the next meal would be, in meetings to decide what was going into the food parcels and in the meetings on how the food and clothing was to be distributed, we heard it when we were in the freezing wood workshop where the shelters were being designed and built. This word is everywhere amongst all the volunteer groups . It was on every volunteers mind and in there work. And it showed.
In the kitchen and food distribution this word came in the way of kitchens being built and the food that the many various cultures were used to eating. We turned our hot and healthy meals into meals that would not only fill a belly but would excite the mind and the memories of those that were eating it. Spices that may evoke a smile or a taste that would bring back a memory of going to a family dinner or celebration and not always a taste that was liked but a taste that takes you back to a place or time that was your life before this one.
In Dunkirk this word was used what designing the communal kitchen spaces and free shops which now allow the residents of the camp to cook their own food with the ingredients that they are used to and to shop daily so they do not have to wait for hand-outs of food that they may not want or know how to cook…
One year on and we are still here but now we are hardened to the situation and are in for the long haul. The thousands of people who have been through the amazing warehouse hub (L’auberge des migrants) in Calais have now spread across the whole of Europe and beyond to continue their work with refugees and displaced people.
So too the present and future of RCK.
Right now we are planning and implementing the next stage. We are working with many other NGO’s and volunteer organisations to plan how we can be most effective
• We are currently building our mobile kitchen truck and support vehicles and we will be taking this on the road to camps across Europe and who knows, maybe beyond.
• We are still supporting the camp in Dunkerque / Grande Synthe with hot and cold food and maintenance of the communal kitchens
• We are in talks with groups in Paris where there is a growing need for food security.
• We have also brought our skills back home with us to the UK and have been serving food to the homeless on the streets of London and will continue to do this with the hope of having several services a week in the near future.
• We are supporting other grassroots organisations with our knowledge, skills and funding.
Little did we know that when we started this in October 2015 that we would still be here, neither did we expect the kind of support that we have received both in person and financially. This amazing endeavour would not have happened without the continued support of all of you and the absolutely amazing dedication of the volunteers, some who have been here for over a year and those that came for a weekend. You have made a huge difference to so many peoples lives.
We hope that you will continue that support us, both in person, with food and clothing donations and financially because without it we will not be able to continue.
As an added bonus the RCK family has been awarded the Community Project of the year by the European Diversity Awards which was unexpected but well deserved..
This award goes to ALL of the volunteers and people who have donated and supported us of the last year. YOU ARE ALL AMAZING.
With LOVE, RESPECT and DIGNITY we WILL continue to change lives