Edinburgh family gives up Christmas to help Calais refugees

Mary Mackay, Karen Mackay and Lucie Yavruturk. Picture: Jane Barlow
Mary Mackay, Karen Mackay and Lucie Yavruturk. Picture: Jane Barlow
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THREE generations of the same family are set to embark on a mission of mercy helping refugees in Calais.

Karen Mackay, her mother Mary Mackay and daughter Lucie Yavruturk, will spend a week distributing clothing in the notorious camp nicknamed The Jungle.

I told the family ‘I have not got you anything for Christmas – this is what I have decided we are going to do’.

Karen Mackay

The big-hearted trio will travel to the French port on January 18 with three other relatives who will be building extra shelter for the migrants.

Karen, from Fountainbridge, announced the plan to the family on Christmas Day in response to the “consumerism” of the festive period.

The 55-year-old, who runs city-based children’s clothing company Nippers, said: “I told the family ‘I have not got you anything for Christmas – this is what I have decided we are going to do’.

“We realised we did not need any presents nearly as much as others needed help in the refugee camps in Calais.

“Having contacted aid agencies and spoken to people that have volunteered at these camps it is obvious that things are pretty much akin to a living hell there.

“Conditions are damp and muddy, more and more refugees are arriving daily, disease is becoming common and supplies are drying up.”

Karen and Lucie will be working in the camp, which houses an estimated 7000 refugees living in makeshift tents.

Lucie, 26, who works in Edinburgh Dungeon, is qualified as a secondary school drama teacher and may also be able to hold some children’s classes.

Mary, who volunteered in a distribution warehouse during the Kosovo crisis, will be working in a similar centre in Calais.

The 79-year-old, who grew up in Craigmillar, was keen to help despite her Peebles home being twice flooded in recent weeks.

She is a sister of the late community activist Helen Crummy MBE, whose statue was unveiled in the city last year.

The women will be joined by Karen’s brother-in-law Johnny, and her teenage nephews who live in Peebles. Johnny, who owns a teepee company, will help erect more waterproof makeshift homes in the camp with help from the two boys.

The family is collecting men’s winter boots and socks, while new waterproof clothes and tents have been provided by Trespass. But they still need to secure at least one mini bus to transport the six family members plus donations.

Karen added: “It would be great if we could find someone or a company who would let us use theirs for the duration or to fund us to hire it. Montpeliers [of Edinburgh] have started the ball rolling with a £250 donation towards this and would be brilliant if we could find another few companies willing to do the same, or even provide enough money to hire two vehicles so we could take even more of these much-needed supplies with us.”

john.connell@edinburghnews.com