Why this Diss builder delivered flat-pack shelters to refugees at Calais

PUBLISHED: 16:14 01 February 2016 | UPDATED: 16:14 01 February 2016

Damien Matthews recently went to Calais with a group helping to provide shelters for refugees.

Damien Matthews recently went to Calais with a group helping to provide shelters for refugees.

Archant Norfolk Photographic © 2016

As a father of three children Damien Matthews knew he had to act after he was shocked by the photograph of a dead Syrian child being washed up on a Turkish beach.

The shelters arrive and are set up in CalaisThe shelters arrive and are set up in Calais

That tragic image of Alyal Kurdi led to the Norfolk builder helping migrants who are living in grim conditions in a makeshift camp in France.

Mr Matthews, 48, of Shelfanger, near Diss, was one of 12 people who set out on a convoy to provide much-needed shelter to desperate families in the so-called Jungle camp at Calais.

The convoy delivered 20 flat-pack shelters which took only an hour-and-a-half each to set up to provide new homes for about 100 people, many of them women and children.

In conditions he said were reminiscent of a rubbish dump, Mr Matthews also witnessed tense stand-offs as French authorities cleared part of the camp, which is home to thousands of migrants and refugees.

He said: “The Jungle is like a rubbish dump. There is liquid mud, it is incredibly unsanitary and there are so many small children and young people living in very poor conditions.

“It is grim out there. It puts things into perspective.

“We had a lot of smiles and thank-yous when we set up the shelters.”

Mr Matthews got involved in the convoy through Earsham-based Transport Aid.

Once in France, the volunteers worked with the organisation L’Auberge des Migrants to decide who should be housed in the shelters.

It was the second time Mr Matthews has been to Calais as he delivered a car full of essential items in September, such as bedding.

On how he got involved with helping migrants, he said: “I was affected badly by the pictures of the dead Syrian boy laying on the beach.

“I knew I had to do something instead of just talking about it. It is about seeing a need and doing something.”

Mr Matthews plans to deliver more essential items in the spring.

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