On October 21, FFL Global affiliate, Food for All (FFA) set off from ISKCON’s Bhaktivedanta Manor in England with two vehicles loaded with food supplies and provisions such as sleeping bags, tents, and clothes, etc. to a place called “the jungle,” just outside of Calais in France, where some 6,000 refugees were struggling to survive in the worst conditions imagable.
After a short ferry crossing, the volunteers arrived at the refugee camp only to find mud everywhere, heavy rain and people wandering around aimlessly, desperation painted on their faces. “Within seconds of arriving, we realised the situation was much worse than we expected,” explained director of FFA, Peter O’Grady (Parasuram das).
“Many people had been living at the camp for 3 months or more. There were about a dozen portable toilets, but no showers, communal buildings, or kitchens for people to prepare meals. We saw someone trying to cook some porridge on an open fire,” said O’Grady.
“One would expect at a refugee camp as large as this, that someone would be in charge, or for there to be at least some kind of order, but no, not here in “the jungle.” It was basically chaos from wall to wall. So we just drove straight down through the water and mud into the belly of the beast and took immediate action.
“It was a little scary to be honest. There were hundreds of desperate people surrounded our van. The first task was to get people to make a queue, which needed all hands on deck, and our team sprung to action. But soon we were distributing delicious hot rice, vegetable stew, cake, apple pie, apples and oranges. The volunteers were serving meals as fast as they could to keep the crowd satisfied, lest a volatile situation arise.
“Many had gone without a bath for months. As they waited in line in the torrential rain, some pointed to their muddy feet, broken shoes and sandals, hoping we could help with that too. We did have the shoes they needed, but it would create a riot if we were to attempt to distribute them right then and there, so we waited.
“After a few thousand meals had been served, we reflected on how we were going to distribute a van load of clothes without creating a riot. So we opened the back door of the van, drove around the campsite and threw bags out left and right. The clothes were quickly snapped up and we were able to cover most of the camp,”Indiana Jones” style,” said O’Grady.
Food for Life Global and its network of affiliates are experts in providing freshly prepared meals to the public in massive quantities and here was another great example, where volunteers were tested under very challenging conditions.
“We don’t claim to understand the reasons why people are here and what the political solutions may be, but whether it is escaping an illegal war, bombings, or whether it is simply, people coming to the UK to create a better life. What we do believe to be true is that these people are our spiritual brothers and sisters, suffering the pangs of material existence and they need our care and kindness,” explained, O’Grady.
“The inspiration behind the Food for Life Global, Srila Prabhupada was a wonderful example of care and kindness. In Mumbai, my wife, Moksha Laxmi was once instructed by him to start a school for street kids who were coming to the temple and to offer them food and clothing,” he said.
To learn more about Food for All, visit http://foodforall.org.uk/