The importance of fair and dignified distributions

20/04/16

How do you distribute essential items and food to a group of people who are often in desperate need so that the system is fair for everybody and maintains their dignity? No-one likes to wait and no-one likes to feel that they are receiving charity. It can be humiliating and we believe that maintaining refugee dignity and independence is just as important as providing food and clothing.

Our first system was in the shop. We have 6 tent ‘blocks’ and each block has a 2 hour window when they can collect what they need from the shop. This needed to be firmly enforced at the start but it avoids lengthy waiting and as temperatures are now rising into the 30s that is particularly important. But the main benefits are that:

      • they know when they will get what they need
      • everyone has an opportunity to use the shop (not just the strong, healthy and willing)
      • it gives them time to choose and chat
      • it gives us time to re-stock the shop so that everyone has access

Line 12976970_10156840093665008_5220253602782256237_oBetween us, we have worked in emergency relief situations in Calais, Nepal, Haiti, Sri Lanka and Philippines so know the importance of this.

This week a well-intentioned but less experienced local group turned up with a truck and this scene will be familiar to anyone who has spent time in Calais: disorganised, unfair, rough, wasteful, upsetting and dangerous.

It can quickly empty the van but does far more damage than good.

This week we did a shoe distribution – an item in huge demand – and it took us nearly 7 hours. That is a lot of work but it avoids this humiliating bunfight and also means we can control the quality of what we offer.

Line 13041422_10156847537385008_46371944152217542_oIt is harder to establish tent block rotas with our food distributions but the key there is to prepare as much as possible in advance, to work quickly and to work together as a team.

Large pots of cooked food, yoghurt and salads all work well and also go a long way to supplementing their diets with nutritious food.

Our other top tips:

  • Work together with the refugees, regularly rotated to avoid any concerns about favouritism, so that clear rules are broadly agreed upon
  • There will always be some who try to jump queues so to have someone who can deal with that firmly but sensitively
  • Work quickly and focus on the task
  • Do something to entertain the kids
  • And smile – lots!

D 13007272_1598875787098560_768760721495794657_nIt’s our privilege to serve the refugees and what we want are happy customers who get what they need while also being respected as dignified human beings.

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