Wheathampstead furniture maker builds 60 shelters in Calais refugee camps

Some of the shelters Benedict helped to construct

Some of the shelters Benedict helped to construct

Archant

A furniture maker has put his talent to charitable use by building about 60 shelters in the Calais refugee camp.

Some of the shelters Benedict helped to constructSome of the shelters Benedict helped to construct

Benedict Boyle, 33, of Necton Road, Wheathampstead, and owner of Benedict’s Fine Furniture, first went over to the Calais Jungle just before Christmas to help build shelters for refugees.

He has now made four trips in total, staying for a week at a time, and returned from his most recent trip on February 26.

He uses his expertise to build shelters, usually for the vulnerable people in the camp, and funds a lot of the materials himself with the help of monetary donations.

He spends his time in Calais in the refugee camp and at the workshop situated behind the donation warehouse also visited by local charity St Albans for Refugees.
When in the Jungle, Benedict works alongside the refugees to build shelters that mean people can move from tents to something that is warmer and can be locked.

A refugee Benedict met in the Calais JungleA refugee Benedict met in the Calais Jungle

In a journal, soon to be available on his donation page, Benedict describes meeting an eight year old who lost both his parents to bombing in Syria.

He said: “The boy was maybe eight years old and the lads helping us build their shelter told us he had lost his mother and father to bombs before making the journey here, and was now alone in the jungle.

“The community looks after him now. There is a lot of this in the Jungle, shared responsibility, care for the community, sticking together to help protect the old, the young, the vulnerable.”

Benedict has built about 60 shelters, but half of them are in the south side of the camp, which is currently being demolished by the French authorities.

He said that there was a strong feeling of tension in the camp leading up to the demolition.

Benedict continued: “An old man asked me to help him move his shelter. I told him I couldn’t today as the community leaders had decided to protest. He said ‘What leaders? I want to move, I don’t want trouble.’ and left shaking his head and wringing his hands. There was an atmosphere of tension, fear, and uncertainty. The Jungle was on a knife edge and you could feel it building as the impossible situation kept rearing its head.”

Benedict’s journal, titled ‘Truths from the Calais Jungle’, will be available to view on his donation page in the next few weeks.

All money donated on the page will go towards buying materials. Benedict said: “Having been on the ground, I now know what materials are needed and will be bulk buying tarpaulins, heavy duty plastic (in 25m X 4m rolls), nails/screws by the kilogram, doors latches and padlocks by the box load and much, much more.

“I will also be transporting pallets for flooring and ideally fresh fruit and vegetables when I go. Every penny will go toward helping those who need it most.”

If you would like to donate, click here.

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