Anu Shukla, who joined the Bromsgrove and Droitwich Standards in September, spent three days in Dunkirk with Worcestershire-based People in Motion – which delivers supplies to those found in the camps.
As part of her trip, Anu got to see the impact food, toiletries, clothes and other items donated by her newspapers’ readers to People in Motion were having on the refugees’ lives.
She also helped pitch tents for families, distributed clothes to men and dignity packs to women and children who were too traumatised to come out of their shelters.
Anu, pictured above left with a child refugee, said: “It felt surreal yet sobering to witness the camps first hand. It hit me that the odds are against these masses of people and things are not going to get better.
“It was fascinating to report from this tough environment and it certainly helped sharpen my journalistic skills.
“But from a human perspective, it triggered a spectrum of emotions: I felt frustrated with first world problems but what struck me was the resilience of the refugees to survive – and the spirit of humanity amongst volunteers who gave up jobs and families to work in this squalor.
“It’s easy to make desensitised judgements about refugees from faraway lands. My advice to those who do, is to get out there and experience what’s going on for yourself.”
During her time there, Anu took numerous photographs of the conditions and the people and experienced what she called ‘heavy-handed tactics’ by the French police to stop the aid getting in.
She added: “There was a heavy police presence at the entrance most of the time. We had our bags checked for supplies too and I witnessed a game of cat and mouse as the more experienced volunteers worked out solutions to getting aid into the site.”
On her return, Anu wrote a detailed piece on her experiences for the paper and website and is currently editing a video about her time there.
And, at the next meeting of Bromsgrove Welcomes Refugees, which is also planning to donate items so they can be sent to the camps, she will also be giving a presentation about her time in the camp, alongside the founder of the People in Motion group.
Last year Tareq Haddad, a trainee reporter at the Hull Daily Mail, spent a Saturday following Hull Help For Refugees at a camp near Calais.