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October, 2015

E: news@bishopstonvoice.co.uk

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News Katarina delivers bikes to Calais

ONE local resident is doing her bit to help with the refugee crisis in Calais – by providing bicycles to those stranded at the French port. Angered by the situation, Katarina Complova, 27, from Redland, felt compelled to respond to the crisis by doing something practical. So, alongside her friend Imogen, she decided to drive a van of bicycles, and other donated goods, over to Calais. Katarina, an independent filmmaker from Slovenia, said: “I’ve been following the news about the refugee crisis for some time. “I felt that our government and other governments in EU countries weren’t doing enough to help refugees, so I wanted to do something about it.” Katarina became aware of the initiative Bikes Beyond Borders – coined by some friends in London – who were riding to Calais to donate their bicycles to refugees.

In response to the project, Katarina and Imogen decided to drive to the French port in a small van, filled with donated bikes and other items. “I emailed everyone I knew about donating clothes, bikes or bike accessories, and also shared what we were doing on Facebook. “We got a tremendous response from our friends and work colleagues, and in two days we ended up with piles of clothes, books and art therapy items sitting in my front room – more than I ever imagined. “We also contacted the Bristol Bike Project, who were very supportive and donated about nine bikes.” Once the pair arrived in Calais, they dropped the bikes and other donated items at the local distribution centre for them to hand out to the refugees. “Although everyone around me was saying that what myself and Imogen did was great, I felt really helpless, because what we did was far from reaching

everyone that needs it. “What people in the camp really need is more long-term solution to their situation and a chance for decent life, whether in France or in UK.” Katarina says that since returning from her trip to Calais, she is pleased to see many people across the country being more vocal in their support. She added: “One of the

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things I find amazing is the UK landlords offering their spare room to house a refugee or even a whole family. I think there should be more of that happening.” Katarina is planning another trip to Calais in October and is calling on people who have a spare bike, to donate it to the Bristol Bike Project in Hamilton House.

RESIDENTS wishing to play their part in helping refugees can do so through the Bristol Hospitality Network (BHN). The network provides accommodation, as well as opportunities for creative community involvement, to people seeking asylum and experiencing destitution. Locals can sign up to BHN’s mailing list and also ‘like’ them on Facebook, to keep up to date with what help is needed. Residents can also offer a spare room to a destitute asylum seeker – most are single men, aged 25 to 50 – or give regular donations to BHN to run their men’s hostel or provide refugees with £10 a week. For more information, visit: bristolhospitalitynetwork. wordpress.com.

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