Let's Not Forget ADRA Dunkirk

Let's Not Forget ADRA Dunkirk

We do not want to forget the volunteers working in the front line to support these families who are tired of not having a normal life and home.

July 18, 2016 | Bern, Switzerland. | C. Cozzi, CD-EUDNews.

It's been weeks since the celebration of Refugee Day, both at the Adventist Church level (June 18) and globally (June 20). We are still aware of the articles that have been published, and even videos that have allowed us to come into contact with this 'unjust' reality

We do not want to forget the volunteers working in the front line to support these families who are tired of not having a normal life and home.

The visit to the refugee camp at Dunkirk in northern France has pointed out the commendable activities done by ADRA in this town. The Dunkirk refugees camp is run by different NGOs.  ADRA is also involved in supporting the refugees in this area and is mostly under the management of a church, the Adventist Church in Dunkirk. ADRA manager, Clodette Hannebicque promised a regular weekly visit to Dunkirk with a group church members and a fairly large group of volunteers.

We asked Claudette to explain how could such an impressive social activity take place, despite the small size of the church.

EUDNews: When and how did ADRA Dunkirk project start and how did the idea of helping the refugee camp begin?

Claudette:  ADRA Dunkirk started in January 2012. With the creation of ADRA Dunkirk, there was no question at all whether or not to assist refugees, we had had no idea of their existence before! Initially, we wondered what they needed from us. In my search, I found a contact with Matthew, from International Doctors. As a result I found out that no organization was distributing food to refugees in the municipality of Grande-Synthe on Sunday, unlike the other days of the week. The first reflex was to commit myself immediately to address this lack (I signed up before consulting members of the community). Indeed, we are a small Adventist community but we have established ADRA Dunkirk. We organized the first meeting, and we realized that immediated action was needed. The first Sunday, we brought them tea and home-baked goods, we did the same on the second Sunday and soon we felt that what they really needed was a complete hot meal (it was winter). We had no finances but that did not stop us; we decided to act anyway and donated the necessary food for meal preparation for that whole year. We then organized fairs and flea markets to fundraise in order to continue our work. An application for a grant was also made to the City Council of Grande-Synthe where the camp is located.  And for three consecutive years, this grant has allowed us to continue. It was Divine Providence plus the meeting with Matthew (DWF) that led us to the refugees. Of course, for the first while, it was not all that easy, it was the first time we interacted with refugees. We had to get to know them, understand their behaviour and their reactions. Even within the team, we had to clearly define our plans.

EUD News: What is your job in the field?

Claudette: Our job is to serve food to refugees on Sundays (the food is provided by other associations on the other days of the week). We provide for them as much as we can: clothes, shoes, blankets ... We spend a lot of time distributing goods. Before that, whenever necessary, we accompanied refugees to PASS Emergency (Platform for Access to Health Care) of the hospital in Dunkirk. Currently, the camp medical team is on duty everyday, (International Doctors, Doctors without Borders, Gynecology Without Borders, Red Cross, and recently added a dental team)

EUD News: How do the refugees welcome you? What is your relationship with them?

Claudette: Refugees welcome us favourably. Our relationship with them is good as we show them respect. Some have often told me that even if we were not to feed them, the mere fact of us being with them and our friendly conversations, would suffice.

EUD News: How many volunteers work with ADRA Dunkirk?

Claudette: This year 2016, the team of ADRA Dunkerque is made up of forty-six members.
Twenty volunteers take turns helping out on Sundays and weekdays.

EUD News: How is your relationship with the authorities.

Claudette: Our relationship with the city authorities are good, as well as with other organizations working at the camp. We have regular meetings among the associations.  ADRA is part of a collective team: the PSM (with the Migrant Services Platform). During the camp relocation in March 2016 until May, the camp was the responsibility of a manager.
Recently, the state took over its management. But as far as our camp activities, there are no major changes.

EUD News: Do you have a special experience to share?

Claudette: for some time I noticed an immigrant, a little timid holding himself back, (not because he was shy), very discreetly, patiently waiting his turn to be served. Then for a few months I didn't see him. Then one Sunday, I saw him again in the line-up.  After the service we gave away some clothes. I asked this persistant immigrant if he needed anything. He nodded and told me to finish serving the others. At the end of the distribution, he asked me if I had a pair of socks for him! Rummaging through my things, I found a pair. He took them with a smile and thanked me extensively. While I was organizing my things, he came to me and told me he is Christian. Ah!  He told me his story, his conversion to Christianity. He is Iranian, a professor at the university, on the run because of his faith. One day he entered a church in order to hide. In the center of the driveway, he said he saw Christ, he fell backwards, unable to move or get up for a few seconds. This encounter changed his life. That day, at the camp, he asked people to pray with him. Olivier Rigaud, then pastor of the community, and there present that Sunday, turned and crawled into his small tent to pray. This made a deep impression on me, this man's face reflected the Peace, the Love, the Compassion. Never had I felt such emotion in the presence of anybody! That's why it made such an impression!

EUD News: Do you have a special request?

Claudette: The first request I have may sound strange, but please let us stop misconceptions about immmigrants and refugees even within Christian communities. Let us stop stigmatizing. Hopefully we will never find ourselves, nor our children, in their place someday!!! Secondly, we welcome donations. We must add that periodically a group of volunteers from the Adventist church in Newbold, Brecklnell, England, come to support the needs of the Refugees of Dunkirk, bringing food and whatever is so generously donated to them. It is not difficult to recognize the words of Jesus who praises those who welcome the stranger within their own doors, free of charge, with no presumptuous expectations, because it is done with respect and generosity.

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