Calais volunteers highlighted in film
The dedication of Baptists volunteers at a safe house in Calais has been profiled in a film by the Bishop of Europe.
Jenny Baldwin and husband Eric, of Brentwood Baptist Church, Essex, are among those supporting unaccompanied minors and vulnerable young adults at a safe house in Calais.
The house, run by Brother Johannes, attempts to provide a community for the young refugees and unaccompanied minors in Calais, for whom conditions have worsened since the closure of the Jungle camp 18 months ago. There are showers and hot food, internet and clothes washing facilities, and general and prayerful support. The workers do not just try to 'help' refugees, but prefer to be there with them, supporting when possible, but also making friends.
The house is the focus of a fundraising Lent appeal by the Bishop of Europe, and Jenny has been a regular volunteer there since last summer. She met Brother Johannes when she visited the Calais ‘Jungle’ in August 2016
, and put her sewing skills to good use.
The Jungle was dismantled later that year, but she still felt God saying that she had to do something. She heard that Brother Johannes was continuing to run the house taking in new arrivals and unaccompanied minors, and that he was looking for volunteers.
‘I felt it was right to volunteer and go back to Calais,’ Jenny explained, ‘The job description said ‘house mother’. At the time there were about 20 boys living in the house with more coming in during the afternoon on five days a week to have a shower (at that time there were no showers available for refugees in Calais). Two washing machines went nearly all the time and sunny days were a bonus to get it all dried before they had to leave.
‘Aside from caring for the physical needs of the refugees the volunteers are part of the prayerful presence in the house. On a ‘quiet’ day there can be four periods of prayer on busy days the prayer sometimes has to be less formalised.
‘It was fairly exhausting but very rewarding.’
After she got home Jenny felt her involvement should not stop there. She went through her diary to block out short periods to go over to help again. The recent trip was her fourth, where she was accompanied by Eric, a Baptist minister.
She hopes to return at the end of June. ‘While I feel I can make a useful contribution to running the house and supporting Johannes in his work I will continue to go.
‘The house is important because it provides a home and a safe space for some very vulnerable young people, who’ve had a horrendous journey and are now faced with life on the streets. It's chaotic, but great fun. No two days are the same.
'You have to go with the flow, accept the boys as they are. They're lovely.
‘If you can make a small difference to one person, it’s going to build up and make a big difference to lots of people.’
The safe house is also supported by Peaceful Borders, the grass-roots collaboration of peacemakers accompanying those who seek peace at the borders of our lives and the borders of our nations. Peaceful Borders is co-ordinated by Baptist minister Juliet Kilpin, with support from fellow minister Simon Jones and other Peaceful Borders voluntary team members.
This film is part of the Bishop of Europe's Lent appeal. For more about the Lent appeal, click here
For more about the safe house, visit mariaskobtsova.org.
To support the house and its work you can make a bank transfer to:
Ass. Maria Skobtsova