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Five Oak Green, Tonbridge: Friends reach out to families fleeing to Europe after inspiring thousands to help refugees in Calais

Five friends who inspired thousands of people to help refugees in Calais are now reaching out to families fleeing to other parts of Europe.

In August, we reported that Jaz O’Hara, Dan Teuma, Fin O’Hara, Ruby Gilmour and Jess Johnson, from Five Oak Green near Tonbridge, were collecting donations of food, clothing, bedding and other items and making regular trips to the camp known as The Jungle.

Now, with more organisations helping in the camp, the friends are turning their attention to Hungary and Croatia with Greece next on the agenda.

The group with some of the donated clothing. Picture John Westhrop

The group with some of the donated clothing. Picture: John Westhrop

Jaz, 25, said: “Hungary and Croatia were very different to Calais. A lot of people were passing through rather than staying. There were more women and children and a lot of the refugees were from Syria whereas most of those in France are from Sudan, Afghanistan and Eritrea.

“The people are peaceful and don’t want chaos but they’re desperate. The police are there in full riot gear and they’re using tear gas. I saw babies and children with sore, red eyes.

“But the thing we found most similar in all situations was how hospitable and kind the people were to us and how positive they’re remaining in these situations.”

Jaz O'Hara, a member of CalAid and The Worldwide Tribe, is helping refugees by taking donations of food

Jaz O'Hara, a member of CalAid and The Worldwide Tribe, is helping refugees by taking donations of food

The original group of five has been joined by more volunteers and has split its focus in two.

CalAid, which now has branches across the UK, will focus on humanitarian aid, while The Worldwide Tribe hopes to tell refugees’ stories through a documentary. Jaz said the group saw a change in public attitudes to refugees after a photo appeared in national newspapers of three-year-old Syrian boy Aylan Kurdi’s body washed up on a Turkish beach.

She said: “We still hear some nasty comments but I think that picture made most people realise what a desperate situation people are facing.”

Now lots of people are helping in Calais Jaz's groups are focusing on Hungary and Croatia and will soon look at Greece

Now lots of people are helping in Calais Jaz's groups are focusing on Hungary and Croatia and will soon look at Greece

The friends have sufficient items and are now asking for financial donations to cover transport and legal costs as they start to register CalAid as a charity and have already raised more than £160,000.

To donate click here and search CalAid and The Worldwide Tribe on Facebook to follow progress.

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