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  • Writer's pictureRokhsaneh Madeira

Solidarity Medicine for Refugees

I am sitting in my warm home with a cup of tea watching the latest news about the Israel-Palestine genocide, the internal war on drug gangs in Quito, Ecuador, and violence in Congo. It breaks my heart to see all these people suffering. In the last decade the number of refugees in the world doubled to 26 million people! (1)

Most people fear this raise in the global movement of people, fearing specifically that they are going to “invade our country and take our jobs”. The UK government fuels this paranoia while they push forward with their illegal people trafficking plan of transporting asylum seekers to Rwanda rather than giving them asylum in the UK. In fact the UK only takes around 1% of the world’s refugee population. 72% of refugees stay in neighbouring countries (2). Turkey, for example, houses 3.7 million refugees from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan displaced after war. It is estimated that by 2050 up to 1.2 million people will be displaced due to climate change (3) with increases in droughts, floods, fires, earthquakes and other weather-related incidents.

All this can seem very overwhelming, how can we help? What can we do? In regards to refugees, I have volunteered with The Mobile Herbal Clinic Calais since 2019, we run a herbal first aid clinic to Calais once a month. One of my main objectives in setting up Movement in Thyme was to support this project with the work we do in Scotland. MHCC work alongside other agencies in Calais and fill the gap when other agencies like the Red Cross and Medicine San Frontier are unable to be there. We take herbal remedies which we distribute to refugees and also provide first aid treatment and cups of herbal tea. Over the four days, every month, that the clinic team are there they see around 500-600 people. The majority of refugees who are in Calais are from Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq and South Sudan, the top most dangerous countries in the world to live, according to the Global Peace Index (4). The majority of people seen in the camps are males and this is due to a number of reasons. In Sudan, for example, young men are often killed to stop them rebelling against the government or are used as child soldiers, and in Afghanistan, young men are often targeted for recruitment by radical groups like the Taliban (5). This causes young boys from as young as 12 to flee. Furthermore women and children are often prioritised for social housing and so are less often (not never) seen on the street.

Things in the camps are not comfortable, they are often raided by the French riot police who will slash tents, shoot tear-gas, evict people and throw peoples meagre belongings in the bin; clearing the sites completely. So there is constant need for items. Refugees are often walking around in flip flops, even in freezing conditions, and for example, police will put giant boulders in sheltered places such as under bridges to stop refugees being able to sleep there.

Medical conditions commonly seen at the herbal first aid clinic are respiratory issues, scabies, old, new and infected wounds, itchy skin from insect bites, mites, atopic skin conditions and mosquitos, headaches, chapped lips, allergies, acid reflux, indigestion, constipation, diarrhoea, bruises, sprains, muscles pains, joint pains, fungal infections, corns, blisters, warts and hyperthermia. The remedies we make are therefore things like cough syrup, immune tonic, wound wash, mouth wash, indigestion tablets, anti-itch spray, allergy blends and bruise ointments. We see the remedies working, we hear stories of how they helped people and we know that, unlike for many people in the western world, herbal remedies aren't an alien concept but a trusted source of healing.

Clinics like this aren't common, but it isn't totally unique either. For example, after the earthquake in Haiti and hurricane in New Orleans herbalists were there setting up free clinics to help the people who were suffering from shock and trauma and wounds. Herbs have so much to give. They are the system our bodies have known for millennia. Don't get me wrong, this doesn't take anything away from allopathic medicine, which has its time and place as well.

If any refugees make it to the UK, things are marginally better, but contrary to popular belief they do not end up living in impoverished luxury. With only £7.02 per person per day to cover food, transport and toiletries (6) there is not a lot spare. At Movement in Thyme, we make remedies to leave for refugees to collect in Glasgow and Stirling, and run refugee yoga classes in Stirling. We have had people complain that they do not want to support refugees and if we were supporting other groups then they would be more willing to support our work.

My other reason for setting up Movement in Thyme was that I felt that the pandemic really highlighted the disparities in health in our country and even though herbal medicine is often thought of, and has historically been medicine for the people, it has become inaccessible to many people. I also wanted to marry up herbalism and movement as a way to effectively look after wellbeing preventatively, and to empower people to be able to do this for themselves. Being able to have a toolkit of herbs, movement and mindfulness techniques can really help reduce stress, which causes massive problems for our health. Community is also a major driver of wellness and so we aim to run our workshops with a view to cultivating communities around herbs and wellbeing. Which is why every workshop we run supports marginalised people in our local communities, here in central Scotland, as we empower anyone interested to look after themselves, and their family, with easy to access herbs and wellbeing activities. We aim to create resilient communities that will support each other. Remedies are left at community fridges where anyone can pick them up and workshops and classes are run on a no-questions sliding scale basis to ensure everyone can attend.

Finally, with regards to climate change we feel that herbs are both impacted and can have an impact...but that's another blog post.

We will be running retreats, hen parties and corporate workshops to help to cover our costs, please get in contact if you would like to work with us. We can’t wait to welcome you to a workshop, retreat or class.

Find out more at

Rox Madeira is Founder and Director of Movement in Thyme.

How else you can help

I am also volunteering with, and collecting, the following items to send to Calais and Dunkirk refugee camps in solidarity with Mobile Refugee Support. If you can donate and deliver them to Stirling or Aberfoyle please email me Rox at . Thank you for your help!

  • Camping Items

  • Tents (2-4 man)

  • Sleeping Bags

  • Tarpaulin

  • Thick Blankets

  • Torches

  • Rucksacks/Backpacks

  • Cooking Equipment eg. Pots, Pans, Serving Spoons

  • Camping Kettles

  • Men’s Clothes

  • Waterproof Jackets/Trousers

  • Warm Winter Jackets

  • Jogging/Tracksuit Trousers

  • Jeans

  • Trainers/Sport Shoes (sized 40-44)

  • Waterproof Walking Boots (sized 40-44)

  • Snoods

  • Gloves

  • Socks

  • Underwear

  • Communication Support

  • Smartphones

  • Power Banks

  • Micro-USB Cable

  • USB-C Cables

  • Lightning Cables (iPhone)

  • Food Packs

  • Rice

  • Pasta

  • Dried Lentils

  • Black Tea

  • Instant Coffee

  • Sugar

  • Tinned Tomatoes

  • Tinned Beans

  • Tinned Vegetables

  • Tinned Fruit

  • Tinned Fish

  • Hygiene

  • Nail Clippers

  • Tweezers

  • Tissues

  • Soap/Body Wash

  • Shampoo (Small bottles ideally!)

  • Toothbrushes

  • Toothpaste (Small tubes ideally!)








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