A Stroud student whose A-Levels were cancelled this summer is spending her free time helping refugees in Calais.

Frustrated at being stuck at home, Sophie Ruggles swapped lockdown in Gloucestershire for Northern France.

Rather than taking her exams at Stroud High School, the 18-year-old is now working with people living in refugee camps.

Sophie is volunteering with Care4Calais, a UK-based charity providing aid to people who have come to Calais after fleeing some of the most dangerous parts of the world.

The charity provides food, tents to sleep in, clothing and medical assistance as well as social support and interaction, including language lessons and sports and music workshops.

Stroud News and Journal:

Sophie is living away from home for the first time. As well as getting used to renting a flat, cooking and cleaning, she's working in Care4Calais' warehouse every day and going out with a team of volunteers to distribute food and other supplies.

Speaking about her experience, Sophie said: "My A-Levels were cancelled and I hated being stuck at home without a purpose.

"I'm meant to be starting a gap year, but there's nowhere to go. So I got in touch with Care4Calais and asked if I could volunteer with them.

"I was on the train to Calais just a few days after my 18th birthday.

"This is the first time I've lived away from home, so there's a lot to get used to. But it's incredibly busy, every day I'm helping distribute food, managing stock in the warehouse, and serving tea and coffee to people in the camps.

"I was really struck by the warmth and friendliness of the people living here, they're so optimistic despite the unimaginably tough circumstances they face.

"You realise that behind the label 'refugee' are people just like us, they love listening to music, getting their hair cut, chatting about their families.

"My family back home are sometimes a bit worried about me, but in the camps I feel completely safe. Sometimes when the police arrive the atmosphere turns tense, the authorities regularly evict people from the camps, taking their tents and possessions and forcing them to move on.

"It's horrible to witness your friends being treated like that.

"The toughest thing about the job is the PPE. We are incredibly cautious about preventing the spread of coronavirus in the camps, but it means we have to wear two facemasks at all times, in this hot weather it's claustrophobic and uncomfortable.

"I was meant to stay here till the end of June, but I've already extended into July.

"It's an absolute privilege to be working here with refugees and volunteers from all over the world, I feel like I'm making a real difference and it's the best way I could imagine to spend my summer."

Care4Calais urgently need funds to buy more food supplies. You can donate at care4calais.org/emergency-appeal

You can find out more about volunteering with Care4Calais at care4calais.org/get-involved