Volunteering in Dunkirk Refugee Camp | Mary Atkinson

Volunteering in Dunkirk Refugee Camp

I’ve been given an amazing opportunity to work as a volunteer in the Dunkirk Refugee Camp. I’ll be travelling out on March 19th 2017 and feeling a little nervous but pleased to be doing something to help. There’s a little more about the trip below. If you’d like more information or to offer a donation please contact me directly.

Mary Atkinson is a complementary therapist, author and teacher from Chichester. She is travelling with a colleague, Sue Cooper, a nurse and complementary therapist, to volunteer in the Women’s Centre at the Dunkirk refugee camp for 5 days.

The Centre aims to be a secure and comfortable space for women and children of Dunkirk camp to socialise, relax and complete daily routines in a safe, women only space.  Volunteers are invited to share activities that are creative, educational, artistic, pampering or entertaining. Activities that empower women by teaching a skill are especially welcome. We will be offering hand and foot massage, and story massage for the children…. and a lot more! Our work will be tailored to the specific needs of the women and children. And may also include teaching English, chopping wood, cooking and distributing donations of clothes and other essentials.

Hand and Foot Massage

We will be sharing hand and foot massage with the women and also teaching the volunteers how to do hand and foot massage. We will be taking out creams and lotions so they can continue to care for each other when we have left. Massage helps to offer much-needed relaxation for the women who have been through so much and need emotional support to give them the strength to continue. Learning a new skill can also boost self-esteem and offer a distraction from their current situation.

Story Massage for Children

We will also be teaching Story Massage for the women to share with their children. This is a very simple and highly effective activity that combines the benefits of nurturing, positive touch with the creativity and familiarity of storytelling. Mary is co-founder of the Story Massage programme. She has already shared the many benefits of Story Massage with the victims of the Japanese tsunami, the Empowering Women project in Nepal, children affected by the Chernobyl disaster and terminally ill children in the UK.


The Women’s Centre in the Camp

A colleague, Sue Cooper, invited Mary to accompany her to volunteer in the camp. She met Sue when we worked at St Wilfrid’s Hospice together. Sue volunteered in “The Jungle” last year and has followed the plight of the refugees very closely through organisations and social media groups. When Sue discovered that Dunkirk has a Women’s Centre for vulnerable women and children, she asked Mary to join her to offer hand and foot massage and Story Massage within the Centre.

Their applications were readily accepted by the Women’s Centre and they now have official documents for access to the camp in March. They will travel via ferry, taking Sue’s small car, and stay in the Youth Hostel in Calais along with many other volunteers. They will drive to the camp every day for a full day’s work.

You can find out more about the work of The Women’s Centre from their Facebook page  Refugee Women’s Centre

The Power of Massage and Story Massage

Massage and Story Massage has already proved beneficial for teenage victims of rape at a refugee camp in Eastern Turkey.

“For a few hours, the girls were smiling and happy,” says Rachel, a British mother of three, who was volunteering at the camp, “For a few hours, they were just young girls … not pregnant rape victims, traumatised, living in tents and petrified of giving birth in such intolerable circumstances. For a few hours, we had fun!”

You can read more on Mary’s Blog: Nurturing Massage in a Refugee Camp


Raising Funds

Mary is fund-raising to buy essential supplies for the women and children when she is in France. So all money raised will go directly to meet the immediate needs of the refugees. Contact Mary. 

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