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Mum heading to France to help refugees

A WOMAN from the district has been so moved by the plight of refugees in northern France she is heading out there to help them.

Helen Routledge, of Oxenhope, near Keighley, is filling a van with goods and setting off to deliver them in person.

She is currently collecting a range of items – including clothes, toiletries, tents and toys – to be distributed to the needy around Calais, Dunkirk and Paris.

The mum-of-two will travel across the Channel on Wednesday, November 22.

She will then link-up with the Care4Calais charity to give out the aid.

“Last year a friend told me she was collecting coats for Syrian refugee children – I wanted to help and managed to collect 100 myself,” said Mrs Routledge, who is studying for a social work degree at the Bradford College University Centre.

“I then saw a documentary called The Forgotten Children about refugee orphans stranded in Europe.

“It broke my heart, but also motivated me to do more.

“Looking into the issue, I saw how horrendous it was and is and thought what can I do?

“I saw that people had just put stuff in their cars and driven over so I decided that is what I would do.

“The idea of small, vulnerable children sleeping outside this winter upsets me.”

She spoke to fellow social work students, who pledged their support.

Now everyone at the college is rallying round with donations of goods.

And a collection is being staged at her son’s school, Oxenhope Primary.

Bags are already piling up at her home.

“I have never done any major charity fundraising before but I have found people are very willing to help – even if they can only donate a bottle of shampoo,” said Mrs Routledge, 38.

“Everyday items like that are very much needed and can help provide women and children with some comfort and dignity.

“By going over, I will get first-hand experience of the problem and will be able to come back and speak about my experience to raise awareness of the crisis.”

She will be joined on the three-day trip by her sister Ashley Harlow, with her wife Kelly Harlow.

According to Care4Calais, there are currently around 1,000 refugees sleeping rough in France’s northern port city Calais and nearby Dunkirk and over 1,500 in Paris.

More than a year has now passed since the so-called Jungle camp was razed.

In a drive to relocate people or send them to centres around the country, the authorities cleared the shanty town on October 24 last year.

However, hundreds have remained in the area or have since returned.

A full list of items sought by Mrs Routledge is available on the Bradford College Students’ Union website, at bradfordcollegesu.co.uk. Collections will be made at the Student Hub, in the college’s David Hockney Building, at 11.30am on Monday, November 20.

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