Thursday, 21 October 2021

I want to help migrants

A BUSINESSMAN from Henley is to travel to the migrant camps in Calais with a van

A BUSINESSMAN from Henley is to travel to the migrant camps in Calais with a van full of goods to help those in need.

Tom Clark, who runs Rowgear on the Hernes Estate, off Greys Road, is appealing for donations in time for his trip to the port on September 21.

He wants clothing, toiletries, tents or shelters and food.

There are more than 5,000 migrants wanting to enter Britain who are camped at the sprawling tent city in Calais known as “The Jungle”.

Mr Clark, 26, of Crowsley Way, Sonning Common, said: “I’ve seen a lot in the media about it and felt I wanted to do something. There are people three hours’ drive away from my house dying because they haven’t got food and shelter. I just think that’s not right. I couldn’t give a c**p about the politics.”

He said he knew there were charities like the Red Cross helping but added: “If you give them £100 is it going to go to the refugees?

“I thought I could do it myself and within a day I’ve got people I don’t even know donating.

“People have messaged saying ‘that’s amazing’ but it’s not amazing — people drive to Calais on booze cruises all the time.

“I don’t see it as an amazing thing, I see it as being human. There are people there who are starving and children who look like they haven’t eaten. How is that happening in the world today?”

Mr Clark has organised his mercy mission through the charity CalAid and will travel with his brother Arthur, 24, and girlfriend Zaneta Lichnova, 23.

On arrival they will liaise with Le Vestiaire Des Migrants, which helps distribute donations, and spend the day in “The Jungle” before returning home.

Mr Clark said: “I want to make a video of it. People can sit at home and judge but when you start seeing images of how people are living it brings it down to a human level.

“I’ll maybe walk around and say ‘hi’. It’ll be nice to show there are people who give a s***.

“Apparently, there is a massive shortage of shoes because these people have travelled across Europe on foot.”

His brother is helping to collect items at his home in London as is his sister Charlotte, 28, at her home in Worcester.

Mr Clark, whose company sells rowing equipment online, said: “Clearly I’m not a solution but I’m capable of helping which is better than sitting on my backside and doing nothing.

“People need clothes, food and money. I can give it to them so it makes sense to go and do it. I’m not going for self-gratification but obviously being charitable feels nice.

“A lot of these people don’t even want to go to the UK, they want asylum in France. That can take up to two years and you’re not allowed to work during that period so what can they do?”

Migrants camped in and around Calais have been making nightly attempts to reach the UK, often by boarding lorries heading for the port or the Eurotunnel.

The situation in Calais is part of a wider migration crisis in Europe, caused largely by people fleeing war and oppression in countries such as Syria, Afghanistan and Eritrea.

To make a donation, call Mr Clark on 07931 775055 or email

For more information, visit

Meanwhile, the owner of a Henley café is also asking people to donate warm clothes for refugees in Calais.

Vivienne Lee, who runs the Chocolate Café in Thames Side, is collecting garments and blankets and plans to take them to the port when she has enough.

She said: “These people are coming from warmer climates and we are in September now so it’s getting cold.

“I wouldn’t want to travel all that way with my family and then perish. I was touched with what I’ve seen and I’ve done appeals for Nepal and the Philippines before.

“There are lots of children and babies so we want anything people can donate. You can come into the café and drop stuff behind the counter.”

More News:

POLL: Have your say