The Foot Project provides much needed care in Calais

A podiatrist from Carlisle has travelled to Calais to provide much needed foot care for refugees.

Ben Lumley, a podiatrist at Cumbria Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, has joined four other podiatrists from across the UK to provide voluntary care for refugees as part of the Foot Project.  

“These people have travelled thousands of miles to reach the camp, often with ill-fitting footwear or no footwear at all, and that puts enormous strain on their feet. We are the only podiatrists that visit the camp so our support is much needed.” 

The team work closely with other health professionals, using a caravan as a makeshift health centre. They have overcome many barriers to treat immediate conditions, as well as provide long term advice, and have introduced basic guidance on foot care to support other health professionals in their absence.

“Language barriers and the lack of sanitation give us extra challenges. We have several translators who volunteer but I’ve had to rely on my drawing skills too!”

The team cared for people of all ages, from young children and teenagers to pregnant women and older adults. They treated conditions such as trench foot, sever cuts and stress fractures from the distance travelled. Common foot conditions, such as fungal infections, were difficult to treat because of poor hygiene facilities across the camp and a lack of basic footwear.  

“Working in the camp has been difficult and I had no idea what to expect, but it’s also been incredibly rewarding. We’ve worked with people from lots of different countries with stories that are difficult to imagine. They’ve had no access to healthcare for months and have all been very grateful for our help. As much as I’m here to help others, it’s been a real learning opportunity for me too.”

So far this year the Foot Project has had three two day trips, treating around 60 people on each visit. Before each trip Ben has done local fundraising to buy essential supplies such as shoes, socks, dressings and medical equipment.

“Without the donations we have received none of this would be possible. I can’t express how grateful I am for the generosity of friends, family and even strangers.”

“My goal is simply to provide care to those who need it, whatever their background or circumstances. We’re currently raising money for the next trip and I plan to continue going as long as my support is needed.”