A Longridge paramedic is helping to lead the fight against disease in refugee camps.
Juggling working at one of Britain’s medical services with travelling to northern France, 27-year-old Abigail Evans now spends almost every minute of free time leading the vaccination clinics she set up.
What started as raising £2,000 for charity has led to a passion to help those in need, leading Abigail, who now lives in Hackney, London, was given the national Outstanding Paramedic award by The Association of Ambulance Chief Executives (AACE).
But her mission is not motivated by awards, and Abigail says she only wishes she could do more for the families who have fled war-torn countries only to camp in squalor.
“I went out once to find the best place to give the money I’d raised and from then I realised these people needed more than a donation,” she said.
“I expressed my concerns at the lack of healthcare out there and, together with a charity called Hands International, we began work on improving it.
“From then, I started going back and forth to both Calais and Dunkirk every chance I had and set up vaccination centres to help prevent the spread of illnesses like measles and influenza. We vaccinated over 3,000 people of all different nationalities but it also became a sort of community centre - a place they felt safe.”
Usually working with the London Ambulance Service, Abigail says she has been shocked at the treatment of the people living in the camps.
She said: “These people are living in muddy tents in freezing conditions.
“They’re getting tear-gassed almost daily and beaten by police and local groups so to leave their homes to come to this just shows you how bad where they came from must have been.
“The journey from places like Syria to France is so dangerous and women and children would be very vulnerable. I think that’s why men leave their families at home because they’re actually safer there.
“There’s people of all nationalities here but most of them speak very good English. I think that’s why they come to northern France instead of taking refuge in other countries - because they want to get to England, somewhere they can communicate.
“ A lot of them also have family connections here so it’s a natural place for them to head when in danger.”
On Thursday, a court ruling means a section of the camp in Calais, known as ‘The Jungle’, will be bulldozed and the refugees evicted.
Abigail can’t believe the decision, which will be appealed by organisation Help Refugees, as she says it will leave thousands homeless.
“There isn’t enough space in the rest of France for the 3,000 being evicted to go,” she says. “Not only that but a huge concern is there are more than 300 unaccompanied children in the camps who will be left to fend for themselves. Some will try to go to England but the sad fact is some will be killed trying to get in lorries and trains.
“People have praised Germany for taking so many refugees but even they have now closed their doors. Some of them will choose to go home and back into the war. I just hope the political landscape changes soon and Britain chooses to take more in.”
Abigail was at the camps last weekend when celebrities such as Jude Law and Tom Odell visited the camps to help raise awareness of the refugees’ plight.
And she says despite fitting it in around her shift patterns, she will continue to do as much as she can.
“These people need our help,” she said. “I want to keep going and hopefully things will get better.”