Scots volunteers ready to help Afghan families using Calais experience

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THEY were formed in the aftermath of an image that shocked the world – that of three-year-old Syrian refugee Alan Kurdi’s body – and now Scots aid volunteers are preparing to help in the anticipated refugee crisis from Afghanistan.

Eastwood Refugee Aid (ERA) already smashed their initial JustGiving crowdfunding target of £500 in less than a day, and are extending their appeal.

The non-political group ran about a dozen vans between Glasgow and Calais in 2015, and have managed similar mercy missions to Care4Calais and Brussels since.

However, they decided to go into action again as the Afghan crisis continued to unfold.

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Chris McCusker, who set up the latest crowdfunder, told The National: “Now that Covid restrictions are over and due to the recent events in Afghanistan, myself and other ERA colleagues decided to set up a crowdfunder on JustGiving.

“Within 12 hours of it going live we reached our modest target of £500 (now £720) and we want to go further in order to help any refugees coming to Scotland.”

He said their first appeal in 2015 saw two dozen volunteers take batches of winter clothes and food on what they called the “East Ren Convoy to Calais”.

“We also had money which was donated as we also done several charity fundraisers with the help of our good friend Hardeep Singh Kohli,” said McCusker. “That way we could ask [Care4Calais organiser] Clare what she needed most such as painkillers, first aid kits and fresh fruit.

The National:

A massive operation is under way to evacuate Afghans

“We were also asked for shoes as they were in big demand, So we went to the local stores such as Carrefour and Decathlon where we managed to buy at least 500 pairs of boots.

“The following year we repeated the run on a smaller scale with the nucleus of the group, myself, Ron McKechnie, Colin Skinner, Peter Buchanan and Alistair Bamforth.

“We took a van and a car filled with more donations and a heck of a lot of money on a card … so we could go shopping again for Care4Calais and our friends at the Belgium kitchen who provide hot meals for refugees.

“Our last mission was just shortly before Covid where myself, Colin and Ron went out with just money and a van filled with donations which we bought and gifted to C4C – and again we went shopping for what they needed right then,” McCusker added. Now he said the group is preparing to respond to the possibility of East Renfrewshire taking a small number of refugees from Afghanistan.

“As yet we are unclear regarding precise numbers, because Scotland is not in charge of immigration we have to wait to be told by Westminster,” said McCusker.

“So, we stand by with money as any relocations will need cookers, fridges, bedding, food and such.

“We are also planning with the help of Hardeep Singh Kohli another concert/fundraiser so that we can help more refugees, not just in

East Renfrewshire but the rest of Scotland.

“And, when restrictions allow, we will go back to Calais as that is where many will naturally head for,”

You can find the ERA volunteers’ crowdfunder at www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/christopher-mccusker

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Read More:Scots volunteers ready to help Afghan families using Calais experience