Byline: Nazim Ali

During the new year Bank Holiday weekend, I went by-road on a self-funded four-day humanitarian aid deployment to Northern France (Calais and Dunkirk) with Dewsbury-based International humanitarian charity, SKT Welfare.

The six strong team took two large vans full of 800 brand new blankets (thanks to donors support) to distribute to the refugees to make winter that much easier for them. Our plan was also to cook warm curry for 400 refugees but sadly due to unforeseen circumstances we couldn’t go ahead with this.

The deployment was in loving memory of my dear friend, Shiraz Ali Shah Bukhari affectionately known as ‘Shah Gee’ who sadly passed away six-years ago at the tender age of 33 in Sept 2016. In 2015, we went to France and Belgium to distribute humanitarian aid to refugees with Shah Gee driving one of the vans.

Nazim Ali with the late Shah Gee – France & Belgium deployment Sept 2015

Therefore, my recent journey was tinged with sadness and emotional as I kept thinking of him. I know if he was alive he would have been on the frontline distributing humanitarian aid.

We distributed 550 blankets to refugees in numerous sites in Calais and Dunkirk since the refugees were scattered. It was wet, windy and cold. I was profoundly shocked to find refugees staying in tents next to railway lines, overgrown fields and jungle-like conditions.

The refugees I encountered were mainly from Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Sudan and Eritrea. I met young families with children and was left worrying about how they’ll survive the harsh winter living in tents!

We also distributed fleeces and jumpers with our partners on the ground, Care 4 Calais charity which has a permanent base in Calais.

It was heartwarming to put smiles on the refugees faces showing that we care about them and their plight. I am grateful to SKT Welfare for organising this deployment and giving me the opportunity to go with them.

For 25 years I have been at the forefront of community and humanitarian initiatives at the local, national and international levels receiving national awards in the process.

I work as a Careers Adviser at three inner city schools, and take annual leave for my charity trips, which are always self-funded. To date I have raised over £630,000 for charitable causes both home and abroad.

I am eternally thankful to the donors for their kind donations and on-going support which is humbling. It is because of them that I am able to do what I do, and would not be possible without them. God bless you all!