POSTCARDS FROM THE JUNGLE  Random impressions from a weekend in the Calais Jungle

lucetalk:

Warning: This report/article is long, rambling and rather ranty. It does not contain nuts, or many jokes.

STOP PRESS: SINCE I STARTED WRITING THIS, THERE HAS BEEN A FIRE IN THE CAMP. THE CONFLICT WAS CAUSED BY LACK OF FOOD, CAUSING TENSIONS IN THE COMMUNITY. 250 SHELTERS HAVE BEEN DESTROYED AND 500 PEOPLE ARE WITHOUT SHELTER. LOOK OUT FOR A DONATION LINK AT THE END OF THIS POST AND NAMES OF VOLUNTEER GROUPS WHO ARE ALL HELPING WITH THIS NEW CRISIS.  

I went to the refugee camp at Calais known as ‘The Jungle’ with Help4Refugee Children, one of the many voluntary organisations trying to help these people who are trapped there through no fault of their own, and have been more or less abandoned to their fate. The main purpose of this weekend was a clean up of the camp after the gruelling winter. The place has been a quagmire of mud and with no running water or mains electricity, and poor sanitation, there are attendant health risks to the inhabitants.

We were a group of 7 (name checks later) meeting up with others down there who were part of other smaller volunteer organisations, all of us staying in a campsite near the refugee camp. The aid/volunteer status quo is complex, fragmented and unregulated by state mechanisms, a loose confederation of small organisations, the mainstream ones being Auberge des Migrants/Help Refugees and Care4Calais, both of whom have warehouses filled with donations of food, clothing, equipment and other supplies brought in from all over Europe, and who run daily task programmes for visiting and resident volunteers. 

Because the Jungle has not been given official refugee status by either the French State or the EU, there is no Red Cross or similar large international Aid Organisation out there to co-ordinate things, and the whole operation relies on crowd funding. It is ad hoc, but there is a logic to it and plenty of goodwill, energy, effort and organisation on all sides.

I tried to go in with an open mind, with the purpose of seeking the truth about the situation out there, as well as trying to do something to help. I wanted to see it with my own eyes, meet the people and hear their stories. Media reports always distort the picture and there is much suspicion, fear and loathing in the public mind. The tabloid rags are also helping to fan the flames of the xenophobic hysteria that seems to be sweeping the nation. I think you can’t really understand what it all means unless you’ve been there and witnessed it for yourself.

The Jungle is an experience that you don’t forget in a hurry. In fact most people go back on a regular basis, to do what they can to help. They are driven by their compassion for people living on the edge of existence, trapped in a Dante-esque situation of chaos, confusion, despair but also humanity, hope, camaraderie and kindness. It changes your whole perspective. It makes you ponder about the human condition, how this situation has come about and what has led up to it.

To get one thing absolutely clear; ONLY 4% of ALL refugees currently displaced and migrating across Europe are heading for Britain. Most of them are going to Norway and Germany and many are going to Canada, where they are being welcomed with open arms. The 4% heading for Britain are trying to get here to join existing family members. They are mainly in Calais, and some of them are also in Dunkerque, and the other smaller camps that have sprung up around Northern France. Many of the refugees in The Jungle are not heading for Britain at all, they are looking to gain asylum in France and some of them already have.

It is a constantly shifting situation, with people coming and going. Apparently, there are plans to carry out a proper census very soon. Since the whole situation is unregulated by state mechanisms, it is up to motivated individuals to take some sort of accountability. Voluntarily and with no official support.

I heard lots of stories. I can tell you some individual ones later on.  Almost all of those I heard were tales of families torn apart, people running away from violence, chaos, war and terror and unthinkable situations that we in the Western world can’t imagine.

Here is an interesting article in Huffpost about the current situation with rehoming refugees.

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/refugees-welcome-index-amnesty-which-countries-have-taken-most_uk_573cc73fe4b0328a838bdb67

Of the Jungle population, 15% are families, women and children. The rest are young men, who have been separated from their families, looking for a  better life in a safe place. Some of them are unaccompanied minors, lone young boys under 18, wandering around at a loose end, with no family and no-one to look after them. Many of them are orphaned or have been separated from their parents, which happens in war zones. Or they have been sent off out of danger, only to find themselves in more danger. There is a woman there called Liz Clegg, a tough lady from what I hear, who lives in the camp. They started following her around like ducklings after a mother duck, so she stayed and took them under her wing, rather like Wendy and the Lost Boys. Legend. I didn’t see her, but she is there somewhere. Oh boy, do I feel a play coming on.

There are people in the Jungle from all over the 3rd world. Syrians, Afghans, Eritreans, Libyans, Pakistanis, Iranians, Iraquis, Darfurians, Lebanese, you name it. All of them what Daily Mail and Daily Express readers would call ‘bloody foreigners’. 

I digress. Anyway, here goes – an impression of the 2 days I spent there. On the Saturday morning at 8.30 we met up with a group of around 30 volunteers, connected to Help4Refugee Children, under the motorway bridge.

It was cold and windy. Dark clouds scudded across a glowering sky. On the other side of the motorway, toxic waste pumped out of tall chimneys and grim structures. Yes, the camp has been deliberately situated next to an industrial wasteland, an area considered unfit for any other human beings. Needless to say, respiratory problems are rife in the camp, as is dysentery and other illnesses common to unsanitary environments.

It is a bleak scene. Around the perimeter edge of the camp there is an implacable wire fence, curved at the top, with barbed wire, about 20 foot high, designed to stop the refugees who are trying to jump on lorries at night. Our government has spent £60 million on this fence, including policing and maintenance. That’s £60 million that could have been spent on aid.

The whole area is dotted with white police vans. Hanging around them are hatchet-faced, fully armed, black-clad French policemen who look like something out of Star Wars, or some Orwellian dystopian scenario, with large exo-skeleton shoulder pads and knee pads reminiscent of Ninja Turtles. They do not smile. The hostility comes off them in waves. They give you more than a shiver of unease.  They have been known to launch tear gas and rubber bullets into the crowds. One of my party has been involved in an attack and you can imagine how scary and unpleasant that was. These gendarmes are racist thugs who don’t like the refugees and don’t like the people who are trying to help them, ie the volunteers. They make everything as difficult as possible.

The camp is relatively safe in daytime, especially if you stay in a group, and with an organisation, but it is best to get out at nightfall. The police begin their attacks and random gangs of racist, fascist thugs come into the camp and start beating people up. There are, inevitably, inter-racial tensions too within the camp, which can flare up at night. (And did, sadly, last week, when the fire broke out.) This is a Third World microcosm of displaced people, the huddled masses, plucked from all over the world and gathered in the middle of an alien landscape with an alien climate.

However, within this ramshackle sprawl of huts, tents and caravans lies a community with a heart to it. It makes you believe there might still be hope for us all. Although this picture says otherwise.

There is a large area to the South, which was bulldozed last November by the French authorities. The inhabitants of the shelters were given an hour’s warning and many were forced to leave without their important papers and belongings. They have been subsumed into the Northern side of the community, many of them in the container camp, but more of that later. A fearless young UK woman called Izzy apparently did a sit in on the South camp, right in front of the bulldozers. A few shacks remain but it is a wide, flat, desolate stretch of land, littered with tufts of grass and debris.

There were a lot of young men wandering along returning from their night’s attempt to jump a lorry. They looked sad and hopeless. But they were friendly and we all said hello. In fact everyone we met was friendly.  

We entered the camp and it was still quiet. We walked along the main street composed mainly of ramshackle makeshift shelters, which volunteers helped the refugees build with donated materials. Old sleeping bags, blankets and plastic sheeting are bodged together into structures which seem to work. The main street was deserted and we started picking litter, working our way up the street and down the sides. Every kind of refuse imaginable was there. I saw rats later on, scurrying around, but that’s not surprising.  

Gradually the community began to wake up and European volunteers began to filter in. There are many makeshift cafes and shops in the Jungle, resourceful people running businesses, trying to make the best of it. The most popular one apparently is the White Mountain. It’s all wooden benches and assorted plastic flowered tablecloths. I had some food in a lovely restaurant decorated with cuddly toys and half inflated balloons hanging from the ceiling and lots of fairy lights. There are flags and posters on the walls. All of it is donated by volunteers and visitors. I spotted a Teletubbie and resolved to take a Paddington Bear if I go again. He was a refugee from darkest Peru. The owner chatted to us, a good looking, intelligent, cheerful man. He is from Pakistan.

All the electricity is powered by generators. There are also dentists, barbers, a medical centre, the main big Calais kitchen, a school for adults, churches and mosques, a legal centre, a play bus where women and children can go for a bit of respite, and there are plans with another organisation called Children of Calais to build a proper school bus to provide education and resources. There is even a disco!

There are also a lot of caravans in amongst the shelters and many tents. At the edge of the camp is the new container camp, a cluster of white soulless square boxes. It is surrounded by a wire fence, with big stern gates guarded by big stern policemen, all armed. It has strict security. Inhabitants have to put their hands into a machine for ID to come and go. They have to agree to apply for French asylum if they want to go into the container camp. It is dismal and dehumanising, but I guess the families driven from the South camp when it was demolished were forced to sacrifice the freedom that others have for Winter refuge. It looked like a concentration camp and sent another shiver of unease down my spine.

Every day there is the distribution line, a long queue of men standing waiting for the food and other supplies brought in from the Auberge warehouse.

The Jungle is a compendium edition of the 3rd world, a limbo settlement, a shantytown of extraordinary diversity and heterogeneousness. It seems to go on forever. There is even a proper map of the place now. Many of the shelters have been decorated and painted. There are some lovely paintings and murals. There are also many messages around, which are heartbreaking.


‘We are all the flowers of one garden.’ That made me cry. I can’t remember the others, but all of them were about us all being members of the human race. And wanting to have some human dignity and safety.

As we cleared litter we put it all into plastic bin liners which we left on the side of the road for the lorry to pick up. H4RC were working with Acted, an educational charity. Lorries were coming in to empty the portaloos, which stank. It was like Glastonbury without the festival bit. But the place didn’t smell as bad as I expected.

As the day wore on the groups began to disperse. We ended up at the Ashram Café, a group of shacks in a central clearing. It felt like a village square. A small army of pretty young volunteer English girls and one or two guys run this place, the kind you see travelling in far-flung places. There are several structures, a round yurty thing, all decorated and painted with murals, a table by a stagnant stream, with makeshift plant pots and tins full of flowers and a little garden at the back with herbs growing. The food was free and the herbal tea was delicious.

The sun came out and the Jungle began to feel like a proper village community, or a town composed of smaller fragmented communities.  The Jungle has shaken down into ghetto quarters, as always happens in an urban community, each one representing the many nations who have gathered here. Everywhere I looked, people were greeting each other warmly, with a lot of genuine affection, back slapping and hugging. Volunteers and inhabitants all mixing in together, people who have obviously known each other for some time on repeated visits and have built lasting friendships.  

The volunteers are from many different European countries; Holland, France, Belgium, Germany, Scandinavia, Italy.  Apart from those doing general work,  there are builders, carpenters, doctors, midwives, lawyers, teachers, dentists, all of them giving their free time to come and help. Amazing people. 

We had coffee in Mohamed’s caravan, which is just to the side of the Ashram clearing. He is a lovely man with a kind warm face. Iranian I think, or Afghan. He’s a friend of Mitch, who has been many times to the Jungle. Mo is quiet and gentle. He went on a hunger strike in protest at the demolition, and had his mouth sewn up. They told him that he must eat, or he would die, and he said

‘I ve already died so many times.’  I can’t imagine his story.

Everywhere we went, people invited us into their shelters or caravans and offered us food and tea. The Jungle may be chaotic and sad and dangerous, but it is also warm, friendly and hospitable. The refugees want human interaction, they want to talk, to share their stories and connect with the world outside the camp.

They all keep themselves clean and tidy, with clothes and toiletries donated from the warehouse. They wash their clothes outside and hang them on the bushes. There are washrooms all over the camp. They take pride in their appearance. I didn’t see one tramp or vagrant.  

After our visit with Mo, we went into the family section, where the mothers and children are kept away from the main part. Ramshackle caravans are dotted around a clearing. Rats run across it occasionally. There is a small wooden play area , which volunteers must have helped to construct. As we appeared the kids came out and we began to play with them. They were thrilled to see us. There were babies, toddlers and older teenage kids. All of them Syrian and so sweet.  Their families are waiting for their asylum cases to come up. There are two pregnant women in this section who get regular visits from a volunteer midwife. One of our party is Gareth, a tall, gangly, wild haired, eccentric teaching assistant with amazing people skills and fantastic clowning skills. The kids loved him. He horsed around with them for what seemed like hours. We played tag and hide and seek with them, and swung them on the swings. A German family turned up with two blonde kids, and it was good to see them joining in the fun. Gareth the clown produced a load of blow up balls and random game of kickaround football began. A little girl called Saya drew a beautiful picture of herself on the ball, which I have pasted in below. I didn’t take a picture of her.

 IMPORTANT NOTE! I didn’t take many pictures. Not many people do. Although friendly and sociable, the inhabitants are very protective of their privacy for obvious reasons. They are in a precarious situation. It seems rude and disrespectful to go round gawping like tourists or voyeurs, taking snaps in a schadenfreude sort of way, so the general rule is to be discreet. 

H4RC do regular art workshop activities with these kids. There are also art and drumming and musical workshops as many of the inhabitants are musicians. I heard there was once a makeshift stage here, a lorry with the side cut out, and Jude Law came and did a Shakespeare performance. Good old Jude Law. That must have been awesome. However the stage was taken away. Isn’t that nice?

Perhaps it could be re-instated. A regular theatre lorry, like the mummers of old. These people need culture and music and art as well as practical help. Apparently the Dunkerque camp has a small cinema for the kids. 

After the break Gareth and I rejoined the litter picking group. The clean up was tough going. It was a gargantuan task. There was litter everywhere, rotting food, bags, clothes, mattresses, metal, pots, pans, etc, some of it all over the scrub and stuck in bushes, much of it lying around in running streams of dirty water and stagnant ponds, a real health hazard. Gareth was doing brilliantly, along with all the others. Their energy was amazing. By the end of the weekend they had devised a plan to help the refugees keep their camp tidier and cleaner. The refugees had begun to get the message about not chucking stuff away and began to join in the clean up, taking plastic bags and surgical gloves from the barrow. Plans were being made about laminated notices, more litter bins etc, setting up an ongoing refuse policy. The word education crept in. Unavoidable, You’re stuck here so keep the place healthy, it’s in your own interests, even if you’re going to get out soon.

This brings me to the whole ‘white western saviourism’ issue, which everyone is very aware of.  It was white supremacist saviourism that was used to justify the European nations’ big empires during the colonial era. It allowed the Victorians to conjure up their myth of imperialism with value added altruism, two mutually exclusive things. We the Brits lived in over 250 other people’s countries during our Empire reign, we owned and exploited a 3rd of the world, we plundered and oppressed them, but we pretended we were doing them a big favour by building roads and schools and hospitals. This myth still prevails today and is used as an excuse for four centuries of European colonialism, which I believe is part of the continuum that has led to where we are today. (Along with decades of interfering foreign policy, arms dealing and so on.)  So all the Europeans now going out to help refugees raises that spectre of white saviourism again. Except it’s very different this time. It’s a bit of a mind bender and requires much soul searching. Nobody wants to patronise them. They are educated people, many of them professionals with useful skills.

Many people came up to me and said how nice it was that all the volunteers were coming to help, but what about helping them get out to a better life? They don’t want to be where they are. We said that we couldn’t personally do anything, it was up to our governments, but we were constantly campaigning to change things. All we can do is help them deal with their current situation. I hope they understood. It was difficult to look them in the eyes.

As evening drew on Gareth and I wandered about and chatted to some volunteers from Hungary who had been working at the Dunkerque camp. It sounds very dangerous there. Apparently the Kurdish mafia have taken over. It’s not as well supervised as the Jungle. One of the girls was Hungarian, training to be a psychologist I think. So we learnt something about the refugee crisis out in central Europe. Last summer there were multitudes of displaced people out in the open, no shelter. Whole train stations full of refugees, platforms jammed with them. What a hellish scenario, like Apocalypse Now. She told us that despite the government’s merciless attitude, ordinary people were spending their entire holiday entitlements trying to help the refugees, taking them food and supplies and shelter. The heroism of ordinary people.  

We went to the supermarket to buy more supplies. Gas canisters seem to be the big currency in the jungle, everyone needs them for cooking, so Amy and Lauren and Monique bought a load of them from their crowd funded money. 

The next day we went to the Auberge des Migrants warehouse which was overwhelming in its enormity. The size of an aircraft hangar, it is filled with boxes and boxes of donations, all stacked up the walls. Clothing, toothpaste, toiletries, cooking implements, mattresses, everything that we use at home. All of it has to be properly labelled and if items are removed they have to be crossed off. There are chutes to dispense the donations to be taken and put into the right boxes. The atmosphere is amazing, with hundreds of volunteers rushing around. Most of them are there full time, they have devoted their lives to working for the refugees and live in caravans on the warehouse site. I heard an alarming rumour that the lease for the warehouse is running out. I hope it’s not true.

Then we went to the family quarter in the camp and distributed clothes we’d picked up from the warehouse to the pregnant ladies, who were expanding by the day and needed bigger tunics! The clearing was now a sorry sight, after the night’s rain, with puddles everywhere and the occasional rat skittering across.  Many people couldn’t get out of their caravans.  The clearing looked almost jolly the day before, with the sun shining and all the kids running around playing. No child should have to grow up in this kind of environment.

We sat with Abdul in his caravan and he made us tea and offered us lunch. We heard his story.  He needed to talk. Then we visited with more people and heard more stories. Which brings me to the individual stories, which are probably echoed all over the camp.

Abdul. Came to the UK as an unaccompanied minor refugee at 9, I think to join his elder brother. Because of his traumatic past he went off the rails and when he reached 18 he was deported back to Afghanistan, which was now considered ‘safe.’ He has since been back and forth to the UK 4 times, each time getting deported back. He spent 2 days in a lorry with no food, coming back into Europe. He showed us some of the scars he’d received from knife wounds in Afghanistan. There are some very dangerous people there and he was constantly attacked.

His friend, only 15 or so, was captured by a gang in Afghanistan who threatened to cut off his fingers. 

Aziz. An Afghan tailor. His father was murdered by the Taliban, his mother and younger brother and sisters fled to Pakistan. He had been looking for his brother in camps all over Europe and was now searching for him in the Jungle. He showed us a photo. His plan was now to try to get to the UK to find his older brother.

Ali – another Afghan. Also looking for his brother and had been all over camps in Europe, Belgium, Germany, Holland.

One of the volunteers told me about a Liverpudlian Afghan, a UK resident, who had come to camp to help and lost his passport. Probably stolen. (Yes it does happen, these people are desperate.) So he was stuck in Calais, a Brit, talking in a Liverpudlian accent. A sort of grim humour here.

A pregnant woman tried to jump a lorry and lost her baby.

A young boy, an unaccompanied minor, awaiting asylum, lost patience, wanting to be re-united with his family in the UK. He jumped a lorry and got killed.

These are just a sample of the kind of situations these people have been through. Many of those I spoke to want to return home to their countries and rebuild them. In the past 6 years 15 new conflicts have broken out. Refugees can expect 20 years in exile before their countries are stabilised. This means tackling the root source of the problem, which goes back a long way. Decades, centuries even. Arms dealing has a lot to answer for.

Finally we took our leave of our friends in the camp and drove to the ferry port.. Here are some of us on the ferry.

It was an experience of mixed emotions, harrowing and enlightening. I have met some amazing people, both refugees and volunteers, and made some like-minded new friends. It has made me realise the enormity of this humanitarian crisis. It has global, universal significance and we can’t ignore it. There are millions of desperate, misplaced people running away from desperate situations where their lives are in constant danger, situations which our governments in the West have helped create.

However, many people want to turn their backs on the people whose problems we’ve caused. Fortress Europe is making some efforts, but there is a need for proper, co-ordinated, international action that balances with the needs of existing communities where refugees are rehomed.  Many are being re-homed in European countries but it’s not enough. America doesn’t want to know and the Hungarian government is despicable. And yet, during WW2, thousands of Hungarian refugees were welcomed here, along with other refugees. It was all very okay then, everyone thought it a Good Thing to Do. So why not now? What’s the difference?

I am getting tired of hearing the continual excuses about there being other equally worthy causes, (yes of course there are), and ‘not enough room’ here. England is too crowded. And there are homeless people here too. I know I’ve met some of them at the shelters. The answer is you help all of them. There are a million empty houses in the UK, which would be enough to house the UK homeless and the 6,000 refugees in Calais who want to come to the UK, mostly to join their families, that 4% of all refugees displaced in Europe.

Oh of course, now we come to the EU immigration issue. More fear and loathing as the tabloids warn of hordes of Bulgarians, Albanians and Turks etc. Here are some facts about EU migration.

* Immigrants represent only 13% of the population. That’s not a lot.

* EU immigrants contribute £20billion a year into the UK economy in tax revenues. They come here to work. They help strengthen the economy and bring new energy in.

* 44% of the NHS workforce are EU immigrants. If they went, the NHS would fall apart. (Even faster than predicted, what with the public spending cuts and gradual privatisation and dismantlement this government is carrying out.)

* Only 7% of the welfare bill goes to immigrants. 50% goes on pensions, because people are living longer. And 20% goes to in work benefits because people can’t earn enough and are being exploited.

* There are currently 2 million Brits living in EU countries alone, 30% of whom are claiming benefits, which are much more generous than ours. The same number as EU immigrants living here. So the numbers coming in are balanced by the numbers going out.

* Welfare fraud (any welfare fraud) is a drop in the ocean compared to the billions we are being cheated out of by the super rich and global corporate tax avoidance. Tax avoidance is 4 times greater than benefit fraud, but there are 10 times more DSS employees chasing welfare fraud than HMRC people chasing tax avoidance. And the government is cutting jobs at HMRC. Hmmm.. wonder why? But hey, it’s so much easier to go for the smaller targets and hit the poor.

Oh, and FYI – the Foreign Aid budget is 0.7% of GDP. That’s 0.7%. Small price to pay, after what we’ve done to the 3rd world in the past.

So – immigrants can be good news to a country. They raise tax revenues, they help build the economy. And migration is a natural state of being for the human race. We’ve been doing it for millions of years. There is not one person on British soil who can call themselves a true Brit. Even the ancient Britons, the Celts, came from central Europe originally.

My catch all answer to xenophobic schools of thought is that we had a bloody great empire, we lived in other people’s countries. Empires come home to roost. We do not have a moral leg to stand on. And no, it’s not irrelevant because it’s in the past. The European empires collapsed less than 100 years ago, not long in the grand sweep of chronology. It’s all part of the continuum. What goes around comes around and the past creates the present.

SO – and it’s a big So. What are we going to do with these people? Does anyone really think that they would risk their lives in rickety boats, or jumping on lorries, if the alternative wasn’t even worse? It’s naïve to think that the problems in their countries can be sorted out any time soon. If we can’t find room for them, if we think they’re not our problem, where are they going to go? Will we just leave them in those camps in Europe, to rot? Or do some people think that Hitler had the right idea and gas chambers should be re-instated? The Far Right is mobilising right now. Be afraid.

What we need to remember most is that these people are HUMAN BEINGS. It can’t be re-iterated enough.  We need to stop using de-humanising language such as ‘hordes’ and ‘swarms’ and ‘overrun’.  We should call refugees refugees not migrants. We need to make the distinction, but we should remember that even economic migrants are running away from terrible deprivation.

I think Angelina Jolie said it succinctly when she spoke at the BBC World on the Move conference recently. (Link pasted in below) She said that this humanitarian crisis is the biggest test ever of our humanity. It’s global and it’s urgent. We can’t afford to ignore it and separate ourselves from it, or it will get worse and impact on all of us. We need to think in Panavision, not tunnel vision. I’m not religious, but maybe this is God giving us one last chance to get it right. Otherwise I’m afraid we’re all doomed. Even us comfy, middle class westerners in our comfy homes.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b07d4cq1/world-on-the-move-angelina-jolie-pitt-in-conversation-with-mishal-husain 

So where do we start? By giving a fuck, that’s where. By understanding the global significance of this phenomenon. There are already hundreds of people who do care, volunteers working down in Calais full time, and groups going down to help. The volunteer situation is fragmented, and there is sadly some rivalry, but it’s saving lives. If a large Aid organisation with a big budget came in to support and oversee them, so much more could be achieved and the refugees would be living in more humane conditions.

Here is a list of organisations, most of whom have websites and facebook pages. If you haven’t already got involved and want to help, here are the avenues to explore.

Auberge des Migrants/Help Refugees. This is the main organisation. You register dates with them. They send full welcome packs and instructions and  advise on local accommodation etc. They have a huge warehouse. You go to a briefing every morning at 9am and are assigned tasks, either in the warehouse, the warehouse kitchen, or distributing donations in the camp, or doing activities with refugees.

Care4Calais – Claire Moseley. A similar organisation.

Help4Refugee Children – run by two amazingly dedicated young women, Isis Aurora Mera and Daniela Garcia, who work in the UK during the week and go down most weekends to do activities with the children in the family section.

Donation link:

 https://www.gofundme.com/4refugeechildren?mc_cid=257ded67d2&mc_eid=a75cdaca12

Children of Calais, managed by Ali Cersey, who is trying to set up a school bus project and fundraising.

London to Calais, Brighton to Calais, Bristol to Calais. They mostly organise donation collections and take them down to the camp.

Calaid – not sure if they’re still going.

Forest Row to the Jungle – on facebook

And many more. There are smaller local groups all over the country. Just google Calais refugee voluntary organisations and you will find them.

I can’t finish without mentioning the wonderful Mitch, Gareth, Amy, Monique and Lauren with whom I spent the weekend. Amazing people and fun to be with.  And of course Isis and Daniela from Help4RefugeeChildren. 

 

 

It’s time to take on the global leaders, warmongers, tax dodging corporate fatcats and arms dealers – not to mention the xenophobes, cynics and naysayers in our own society. Let’s hope and pray that one day we can solve the problems the human race has created for itself.

 

Best wishes to all and here’s to a better future.

Posted 132 weeks ago

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