Martin and Helen Cording have been hard at work fundraising for donations to support refugees in Calais.

The couple organise the donation of essential items such as tents and clothing, and drive the items over to France to assist the refugees that have fled their home countries.

Martin started this endeavour five years ago, and the pair have since delivered three van loads of supplies, one to Kent and two to Calais. They have a fourth van load ready to deliver to Calais, which they hope to deliver in the next few weeks in their VW transporter.

Martin said: “In 2018 I took it upon myself to try and understand the conflict happening in Syria. The simple conclusion I came to is that a lot of innocent people are suffering due to the tyranny of (a) greedy fallen man.

“Trying to ease the suffering from this war and other countries with issues (such as war, violence, persecution, famine, and food poverty) has progressed from very modest donations, to collecting aid, (which) led to us delivering aid to Calais. We also now support asylum seekers in the UK.”

Martin and Helen collect supplies through Care4Calais, an organisation that delivers emergency aid to refugees in Calais and areas affected by the European migrant crisis. People contact Martin and Helen through Care4Calais’ website and they a they arrange drop off if the items are in need.

Martin said: “We are also quite active (in) searching for people selling second hand tents and ask if they are happy to donate. Many do. I often drive to Torquay and Paignton as I get good responses there.”

Martin and Helen pay for their own accommodation whilst they are volunteering and rent a storage container for the aid before they take it. However, they ask for donations in their crowdfunding campaign to help with diesel and channel crossing fees.

This is only the second crowdfunder they have run, having raised £495 last time to aid their trip.  So far, they have raised £240 for this campaign.

Martin said: “We currently have a van full of donated tents, sleeping bags and warm clothing. The crowd funders we run to raise funds for our transport costs help us to complete these missions on an annual basis. They also help spread awareness to the crisis.”

Martin described the heartbreaking situation in Calais: “1 in 20 refugees entering Europe are arriving in Calais where there are no official refugee camps, so great reliance is put on NPOs to distribute aid, including shelter and warm clothing.

“Working with Care4Calais on distributions, time is also spent providing services. These include phone charging, hair dressing, hot drinks, bike and clothing repairs and playing board games. Giving traumatised people some time, care and dignity is often as important as the aid itself.”

As refugees are so often reduced to a statistic, it is easy to forget that they are human beings, and Martin hopes that his work will remind people of this:

“The rhetoric from some members of our government and other commentators is that those given no safe passage to the UK have no right to asylum.

“The hard truth is that most of the people we deal with come from (according to the world peace index) the most dangerous countries in the world, such as Afghanistan #1 Syria #3 and South Sudan #5 and Iraq #7, all considered to be more dangerous than Ukraine.”

“In August 2021, when we saw the horrific evacuation of Kabul, there were virtually no refugees in Calais from Afghanistan. 18 months on, 1 in 5 refugees there are indeed from Afghanistan, including many families.”

Through their aid work, Martin and Helen have met an abundance of refugees and heard stories of their experiences.

He described one encounter they had with refugees from Eritrea in Eastern Africa: “When we were in Calais last April we met a community of Eritrean refugees. (It was) a very easy distribution of aid as they live their lives as a collective, sharing everything. Gentle souls having escaped a brutal regime of mandatory conscription and still in fear from their own government, (they) requested no photography.

"Despite the camp being rat invested, you could feel a sense of relief and happiness that they had escaped a life of violence. Our memories of that day include African music, football, dominoes, and the least competitive game of snap ever. (It) is our record of a community that really deserve a fair chance of a fair life."

He met some male refugees (pictured) on another settlement where refugees from various African countries were living.

He said: “They really loved football, we had a good chat with limited language about various teams and players. One of the refugees in the picture wanted to come to England and train to be a nurse, the other really just wanted talk about football, teams like Hull City and Derby County, support(ing) the underdog I say. The experiences we have emphasises at the heart of it we are all the same.

“More recently in our work here in the UK we have formed friendships with asylum seekers who have made it to the UK. They are friendly, polite and all prepared to contribute to society.”

He continued: “We are often asked, why do they all want to come here? There are reasons why those fleeing violence want to make it to the UK, such as their second language is English, they already have relatives here or they worked with the allies in the war against the Taliban and were promised asylum. But the key point is they don’t all want to come here. 95% of refugees remain in mainland Europe. 5% is a fair share of that and to be used as political pawns for votes is hard to watch.”

“The media controls our focus and when suffering is reported widely it’s obvious there is so much generosity amongst us. The more people who realise we are all one people, (no matter our heritage, skin colour or religion), the more light will shine in the dark.

“The key to a happy life is kindness, and we should all preach that to our children and our grandchildren. We thank those for their kindness who have donated so far to our cause.”

If you would like to donate to Martin and Helen’s campaign, you can find it here: