The European ‘refugee crisis’ has generated a broad movement of volunteers offering their time and skills to support refugees across the continent, in the absence of nation states. This article focuses on volunteers who helped in the informal refugee camp in Calais called the ‘Jungle’. It looks at the importance of emotions as a motivating factor for taking on responsibilities that are usually carried out by humanitarian aid organizations. We argue that empathy is not only the initial motivator for action, but it also sustains the voluntary activity as volunteers make sense of their emotions through working in the camp. This type of volunteering has also created new spaces for sociability and community, as volunteers have formed strong emotional and relational bonds with each other and with the refugees. Finally, this article contributes to the growing body of literature that aims at repositioning emotions within the social sciences research to argue that they are an important analytical tool to understand social life and fieldwork.