This week RWC volunteer, Nina De Cloet, took the time to interview Doris, a wonderful Belgian volunteer, about her heart -and feet- warming sock washing system. Doris is in her early seventies and visits the jungle of Grande Synthe on a weekly basis. Her ongoing efforts are both an inspiration to the Refugee Women's Centre and a call to action for those looking for small ways to help!
It is heartbreaking to see donations collected by volunteers over and over again go to waste. The hard work of finding donors, gathering and transporting clothes and goods takes time and logistical efforts. But informal camps, such as the jungle close to Dunkirk, provide no washing rooms nor any form of sustainable shelter. Clothes become disposable when refugees cannot wash them and tents are destroyed as they are battered to the ground by the police. Doris has been seeking to battle against this.
Doris, a volunteer who has been active in the jungle of Grande Synthe for more than a year now, has been frustrated by seeing collected clothes become disposable when they are too dirty to wear. She was also sad to see the refugees' discomfort wearing old, dirty or torn clothes. Doris wanted to change something and came up with a system to collect dirty socks from the Grande Synthe Jungle, to wash and return them at least once a week.
"At first the people from the camp did not fully understand my intentions and some were reluctant to return their smelly socks to me. After about a month people came to understand my sock recycle system and started handing in more and more pairs."
At the start of her project Doris went home to Belgium with about 50 socks, but after a while the word had spread and she is going back and forth with more and more pairs each week! Initially her car would smell as bad as a huge amount of dirty socks can smell, but after a while a lot of the socks were part of the weekly washing system so the car started smelling better and better while driving home.
This demonstrates the success of her approach. Doris manages each sock 5 times: sorting them, turning them inside out, soaking them, washing them and finally drying the huge amount. She considers this a straightforward task to do and feels that many hands could make light work:
“If more and more volunteers would take home items for washing on a weekly basis, a lot of work could be done and a lot of comfort could be given to the refugees, especially during the cold winter months. I think it is very good way to help for those who live close to a refugee camp"
Many people are worried about the horrid living circumstances in Europe's jungles and refugee camps but are not sure how they can help in a more practical way. As Doris' idea shows, it could be a great way for people to connect to those living in the jungles and to help with basic needs at the same time. In the end, this system would save the money otherwise invested in new supplies, provide more comfort to those living in the Jungles and end up being ecologically more sustainable.
For Doris, this is all worth the effort. She is happy to help and feels good knowing that more and more people in the jungle are wearing nice warm, clean socks for a while! Doris would move heaven and earth to do more washing for the people in the jungle:
"It would be great if I could help out with the underwear for example or the blankets and towels, but I simply do not have enough space in my car and home to do this, and I need to take care of my family back home too".
The increasing popularity of Doris' wonderful sock system is starting to demand more investment:
"Until now I have been funding everything myself, but as I am washing more and more socks, the amount of machines I put and the detergent used keeps increasing. As well as driving back and forth is starting to add up in cost."
Wearing dirty and wet clothes, not even being able to dry them creates a lot of discomfort for the people already living in a harsh environment. Especially now, during the cold winter months, it becomes an increasingly big challenge for the refugees to keep themselves and their families warm during the nights.This reality leads to frustration for the refugees but also for the volunteers who face a never-ending search for new supplies. Not to mention the ecological drawbacks this throw-away-system entails. As long as there are no sufficient structural solutions for the various informal camps, people will stay in the jungles and volunteers go to great lengths to lessen the hardship of this reality.
HOW CAN YOU HELP?
The Refugee Women's Centre would love for Doris to be able to continue her efforts as well as inspire others to do the same. Therefore, we are putting out this warm call for financial donations in order to keep those living the jungle dry and warm in the best way we can!
You can donate securely through our MyBTDonate page,
CALL TO ACTION - Doris's Laundry Project
If you have a washing machine at home and some time and energy on your hands, join Doris in her efforts. There are many more socks, towels and blankets that need washing. These need to be collected and returned to Grand Synthe on a regular basis.
No need to work alone - perhaps set up a rotation with a group of friends.
Each load of laundry can provide some warmth and comfort for a person in need!
If you think you can do this please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you for your attention and your help.