Very tired so a short one tonight, will try and catch up when home
We started the day by taking some things to some where. That’s about as much information as I can give but we took some aid to a location where it would be of use. The place was a wonderful idea and provided the refugees with a safe space after they had been injured on failed attempt to get to the uk.
The people there were amazing and had good tea! If you want to know more about this do message me directly.
I then went on to a catholic project that gives refugees mainly 15-19 years old) old somewhere to shower, charge phones and sleep between 8am-2pm and the have food, sport, art, music etc for a few hours to engage the guys and get them involved in something fun. Alison was there doing a butterfly art project which will be displayed in the U.K. This summer. It was great to see some enjoyment it what seems like a hopeless situation. The centre is a valuable resource and although I only saw the art work (I was assisting with it) there seemed to be a lot going on. Some new board games would be brilliant there.
It’s unconfirmed but they afghan lads were talking today about a afghan refugee who ‘died’ (unconfirmed) last night getting to the uk. But also reports around 6 made it this week.
While painting butterflies I got talking to a young lad from Palestine his English was very good and when I arrived he was studying kitchen items, table, chair, spoon etc. He reminded me so much of a friend from the Netherlands and he was so genuine. He is considering seeking asylum somewhere in Portugal or in Barcelona. A much safe journey than the uk.
During my time with him I was amazing to see how well he had adjusted to living as a refugee. He was a very uplifting person and good fun to be around!
We then received a call to say Ahmed a Sudanese? Refugee needed help to get to a town a hour drive from Calais he had badly damaged his foot and couldn’t walk. His attempt to get to the uk had put him in harms way and now he was injured.
We started to travel toward the place we were taking him and on the motorway the traffic came to a stand still and other side there was no traffic at all we assumed there had been a crash however a hour later when we finally moved after lots of police cars flying past we discover the issue. On the side of the road was a large while bull tied around the neck but rope and attached to a street sign.
With the Cows all it favour to end their great escape we dropped him off and rushed back to distribution where we saw Hannah again. She had a good rest and was more positive today.
This morning I started my day in station patrol, it started rather uneventfully so I decided to sweet talk the security to try and build a relationship with them so they would be kinder to us and the work we are trying to do. The guy I spoke to was nice, posted there from Paris for a week and spoke kindly about the refugees.
After a patrol walk we arrived back at the station (we were there for every incoming train) and met two other volunteers from one of the wear houses one who was leaving and another who was having a day off. The guy who was leaving is a British guy with Indian? parents he had been stopped by the police and asked for his papers, when he said he had none to police seemed excited to make a arrest, he then produced his British passport, the look on their face = priceless. The racial profiling by the police is very strong.
Then there was some shouting from outside the station, I went out to find a guy having an argument with the police. Again the police has racially profiled his as a refugee. He was from Ely London and wanted a bus to Paris. We were able to calm the situation and find him transport.
We then had a group of 12 refugees arrive outside the train station mainly from Africa. We gave them food, water, SIM cards to make calls and painkillers for their ankle pains we went to the warehouse to get shoes for two men who were wearing size40 shoes one needed 42 another 44.
We sthen decided at 4 to have a break and go shopping for food, stop by at distribution then to bed for 7/8 we were wrong.
After buying food for our tea we stopped by the distribution point. The refugees were getting food so o went for a walk around the area. There I found Hannah. Hannah is the first female refugee I have seen, this Is because the women and children can get CAO accommodation for 4 weeks without giving their finger print so they tend to go there. Hannah is 23 and from Eritrea she traveled to Cali’s though Sudan, Libya and then a boat to Italy and train to France. She has 2 brothers and 1 sister, mother and father all in Eritrea.
She has been in Calais since January without underwear. She was given what she needed in way of materials however she needed accommodating so we started to call around for 3 hours we called around. During this time Hannah fell and hurt her ankle. So was bundled in the back of the car to keep warm and away from the attention of the other refugees. No one seemed to know how we could help Hannah and we got so desperate we were making plans to sneak her into the hostel etc. Then UNHCR turned up I shall reserve judgement as of yet however they were not very helpful. They gave is a number of a centre but then they left without Any other help.
Finally after 3 hours through a source we found her somewhere to stay for a few nights to recover and recuperate and think about her options. She was given a power bank to chats her phone and keep her safe. Hopefully she can sleep well in a warm bed.
After some food we all went to sleep, a long and tiring day.
I arrived at the warehouse this morning to some reports of less than friendly behaviour by the police last night witnessed by a volunteer. It just shows why volunteers are so important at the station (where this occurred). We can’t physically get involved however as soon as you start to film they think twice about what they are doing. The police will often ask you to stop filming however by responding ‘I am British and I know my rights’ a few times they give up. Just the act of filming can stop the less than kind actions towards the refugees.
I also heard of a government organisation supported camp that were only offering food suck as pork and the Muslim refugees had to eat it or they would starve, there was fear of the ‘leaders’ of that camp and the refugees said they would be in trouble if the leaders found out who had told is about the awful conditions.
At the warehouse I was given ‘stationary section’ to co-ordinate and spent around a hour sorting through donations. Children’s toys etc. So today’s top tip for donating is… SPORTS EQUIPMENT- football and cricket especially.
I was then asked to make calls to the detention centre to speak to some refugees and asses their needs. I spoke to 4 afghan males, 1 Kurdish and 2 Albanian. There request was food, toothpaste and socks. Another volunteer then joined me and we made packs of what each person needed and headed to the detention centre. We were advised that legally the must let us in but it may take some persuading.
Whilst waiting to get in a police blue light convoy arrived with around 8 refugees (I peered through the windows counting and wavering much the the annoyance of the police.)
After 45 minutes of pressing the intercom, explaining who were are and getting the response ‘wait’ to which I would ask ‘how long’ and again the said ‘wait’ we finally!!!! Got in. We were searched and had our passport removed, all of our donations were searched and we were allowed to meet four of the men we had spoken too. They were able to tell us what living was like, where they came from and how they were detained without guards in the room. They had no shoes, were given toothbrushes by the guards but no toothpaste and had only simple food. They were so pleased to see us. Tomorrow four of them go to court to see a judge. We can only hope they are treat well. The fifth was meant to be at a house today but wasn’t taken. Many of the refugees were in Dunkirk during the fire and tell of guns and tear gas and they fear they had. One in particular was so scared he wouldn’t look us in the face and didn’t speak. You cannot take tins or glass into the detention centre so top tip two biscuits and crisps individual wrapped crepes, chocolate other similar things are important donations!!
The thing that really struck me today was the story of a guy called Ahmed. He’s a Afghan refugees in France. It struck me because he sacrificed a lot for others with nothing but a false promise in return. Ahmed is a translator who worker for the U.S marines in camp bastion Afghanistan for several years. His life was in danger every day helping the U.S achieve their own aims with promise of a safe place to live at the end. Due to his helping the U.S people wanted to kill him and/or torture him. The U.S finished their mission and left and so did Ahmed. Only Ahmed left as a refugees running for his life on foot to Calais. There are hundreds like him in Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan etc used by the U.S and U.K forces who are dumped after they stop being useful. These young me gave up their relative safety to help the forces in hope of a brighter future, only to be left in the gutter.
There are no picture with most of today’s post as the sensitive nature of the day was not appropriate to photograph and in all honesty I forgot because I was so busy. I’ll try the get some tomorrow. Tomorrow we will be starting our day on rail station patrol 9-1. Hoping for fine weather.
So again I started my day at the warehouse expecting to be there all morning, things rarely turn out how the are planned. After about an hour we got a call to say anther warehouse were struggling for staff so we transferred. I was appalled to see the state of the ‘donations’ bought by a British charity from the army. Moldy sleeping bags, ripped tents etc.
If you want to donate items then CLEAN (I can believe I have to say this) preferably new in packet boxers (S/M), shoes especially size 42 trainers (41-43 are lowest stock) and food packs are most needed currently! There have been a large influx of sleeping bags/blankets post fire so are no longer urgent.
After 15 minutes sorting if that we were asked to go to the train station where we found 12 refugees from Pakistan, Kosovo, and Ethiopia. We spoke to the directing them away from more dangerous areas and encouraging them to keep moving to avoid detainment. After returning to the warehouse we were immediately send out to a park where We were able to provide trousers to those who had damages their clothing, food and water.
This afternoon we went to a day centre which was shut for the weekend but had refugees living outside, a large African population with some Pakistani men. One of the Pakistani men was barefoot and another had shoes 3 sizes too small. Neither had socks. One showed us injuries from the Taliban. My heart broke.
We helped them clear up the area they were staying in, police were complaining about the mess and eviction was a option so we helped them tidy up to reduce the ammunition the police have. With broken glass lying around it was definitely not somewhere id be happy with my family sleeping, yet they are.
We managed to get to a local warehouse to get shoes and socks for the men, when we returned they were grateful. Such a little thing had made a huge difference.
On the way back from the day centre we stopped at a patch of land dubbed ‘the new jungle’ with around 200 ‘residents’ many of them minors. The youngest I met was a lad of 12 years from Afghanistan his uncle is in England but his father has been killed, he traveled to France alone. He wants to study, to be a physicist and get a education, he hasn’t been to school in 2 years and had been in transit 8 month so. HE IS 12!!!!! Another guy (adult) had been in Hackney for three years being processed and was then send back to France by border enforcement. There were many more children around 15 years of age. Many got to charge there phone from power banks, generators and cars while we were there which gave then a lifeline to contact family. When struggling to open a charger a young male came over to me and said he could help, he pulled a blade out and opened the packaging, I didn’t feel at all in danger but it saddened me that he felt it necessary to carry such an item.
4 refugees were asking for a doctor, some had what looked like trench food, others cuts and infections. I’m hoping I can make some connections tomorrow to get a med van out for a couple of hours.
Some French social workers turned up to talk to unaccompanied children to see if there was a way to convince them to go into accommodation but the children are scared. They think they will be arrested.
A young Sudanese guy can up to me and handed me his phone repeating ‘English, English’ not really sure what was happening I took the phone and asked the person on the other end if they spoke English, I was surprised to hear a French voice, the convocation proceeded and the French male asked me where we were, I was initially suspicious but asked a few more detail and spoke to the Sudanese guy through his broken English with help from another refugee. It transpired that the French male was hosting the Sudanese makes wife and children and was inviting the Sudanese guy to go live with him! A family reunited after 4 months!
The food distribution then turned up (and to no surprise the police) the food team were serving rice, vegetable curry, salad and bread. The refugees queued for there food respectfully and were given fruit and hot drinks too. We were able to get a pair of shoes for another refugee and finally the police left.
I feel like Britons most wanted at the moment with the level of policing around I have grown accustom to Northumberland policing and rarely seeing anyone. But good news! I saw Anif again, he’s the lad I chatted with for a while at the rail station yesterday. He was able to get food and seemed I’m good spirits!
I could go on but my whole body hurts and sleep is calling. I must conserve my energy and health for tomorrow, good news I have my own room again tonight so will sleep well.
In the afternoon I joined the other half of the team over at the train station, we were on a patrol to ensure refugees arriving were treat appropriately but the authorities. A few groups totalling around 25 refugees came off the train and were taken to a less hostile place immediately. Transport was organised and some walked the destination appeared to be the new jungle.
I got talking to a young lad called Anif who was refusing to move on until he had charged his phone. Once plugged into a power bank I sat and chatted to him. He’s was originally from Afghanistan and was aiming to Dunkirk tonight. With little money I gave him his bus fare, talked to him for a while and then we went our separate ways. His family are still stuck in Afghanistan and he has no friends here, he said he was alone and frightened.
Remember Anif in your prayers. His journey has been long and tiring. Since the fire in Dunkirk Anif worried he won’t be safe. Remember these are sons or daughters and our humanity depends on them! Ubuntu!
This morning I arrived at L’auberge des migrant wearhouse- one of the main Calais aid wearhouse a for sorting and distribution. They are several other projects based there including utopia 56 and the refugee youth service, which runs children’s and youth centres and are due to open another this week.
Upon arriving when talking to a couple of volunteers a older and with two bags came to the warehouse a homeless Iraqi guy with no place to stay, he wanted to use the toilet and was welcome in and given a hot drink and access to washing facilities and a toilet. It struck me how fragile he was alone in a city unfamiliar to him.
I started my morning in the wear house where volunteers from France, Belgium, Luxembourg, U.K., Canada, Australia and Singapore to name a few and I were sorting donations for the the crisis appeal due to Dunkirk fire. Refugees are once again being loaded onto busses from the emergency gym accommodation and taken all around France. Many without any possessions.
While sorting donations I came across a few things which sparked this post firstly the appropriateness of donations. Refugees do not need high heels, mini skirts, suits etc and they certainly don’t need a prom dress.
Secondly the quality of things given, it’s it’s got holes in bin it don’t donate it, if it’s dirty wash it before donating it. And if your gonna send it wet in a back which we can only assume was full of urine then don’t bother. It’s not fair on volunteers and dam right disrespectful.
So from a wear house perspective sort it into type and size before sending and ensure its clean and appropriate. Around 50 man hours were wasted in my wear house alone today due to inappropriate donations. And a further 80 sorting things that could have been sorted before sending.
Please do consider what you donate before you do it. Check online, see what’s needed and adapt!
After a break so short ever the flowers have only just sprung,
Again my mind wanders amongst the what ifs and should haves,
The buts and maybes swamp me like the mangrove during the rain,
And I’m left with just my thoughts clouding the mind with pain,
Behind me I remember the good times the jokes and laughs.
But again I’m wasn’t for those who don’t care and for the call that don’t come.
So today marks travel day one. We spent 10 hours traveling and contacting warehouses etc. Ready to start the work tomorrow.
Yet although we haven’t started already I’m starting to see the division between ‘us and them.’
At the crossing we were asked what we were going to do in Calais, our response? Visit friends and although true doesn’t describe the reason for the visit. Some times it’s just easier to smile as the wave you through.
On arrival in Calais our hostel which can only be 200m away took 15 minutes and a 7 mile journey to get too due to large barbed wire fences paid for partially by the British government (38 million) to keep the refugees out. To keep ‘them’ out.
To keep those fleeing from war and persecution finding a safe place to call home. To keep ‘them’ from working and contributing to society. To keep ‘them’ from becoming ‘us’.
Tonight I met my room mate for tonight, Natalia a short term volunteer in on of the warehouses she’s just back for a night aid distribution. Knackerd having only slept 12 hours since arriving Monday. Burt out and ready for home tomorrow, she’s been here 5 days. The pressure on the volunteers to be everyone to the refugees seems to take its toll even on short term volunteers especially given the fire in Dunkirk.
For tonight I’m privileged to sleep in a bed and that what I must do now. Ready to go tomorrow.
Thank you for all those who supported me and continue to do so.
May your God be with you,
Tomorrow I will be traveling to Calais and Dunkirk, my friend will be going to Greece, both trips as a response to the refugee crisis. Here are some of my thoughts as I prepare to go.
When I was growing up I studied history at school, I hear of the atrocities of the holocaust the mass deaths due to difference in religion, race, disability. I heard about the Rwandan genocide, famine in Africa and wars in the Middle East. They told me how awful it was, I read case studies of people who survived. They told me it would never happen again. It was a academic exercise.
I grew up with hope of this new world were people valued each other, where people cared. I was wrong.
They told me it would never happen again. They lied. As a young adult I’m living through the biggest humanitarian crisis in recent history. I’m living through people dying everyday without food water or safety. I’m living through a constant Breach of the Geneva convention on human rights. But I’m living through it and many aren’t.
I’m living through greed and power valued over human life. I’m living through Donald trumps presidency, the revoking of the dubs amendment, through children dying on boats because the sea is safer than the shore.
And what is worse is it doesn’t seem to show any sign of ending.
We live in a world where it’s who you know not what you know, it’s where you live that matters and I won’t accept it.
I will no longer live as if none of this is happening. I will no longer disgrace the memory of those who died before but pretending we learnt from it. I will no longer stay silent. I will no longer say never again because it’s untrue. Until we call to account our politicians and citizens to make a stand for those who can’t stand for themselves I will no longer pretend things have changed.
Instead I will fight to hear the voices of the oppressed, I will fight to provide vital aid to those displaces. I will fight to bring about the change in this world beach use no one is winning. While one of our brother or sisters is suffering we cannot win, we cannot succeed. In reality we all just suffer.
‘I am because we are’ Ubuntu
So go out and do something, we can’t expect politics to fix a situation it created, it won’t work. Do something, anything, collect aid, talk to people, fundraise, pray, volunteer, campaign, talk to your mp, be a friend, anything. Just do something because doing nothing is only to reinforce the oppressor.
A climber taking on Everest, a father on a leisurely stroll, a wanderer picks one from the river bed, a mother waiting on her sons call.
One by one the stones add up
a cairn is built, a mark of ‘being here’
a achievement accomplished
For the person out of luck.
A child out playing, a grandparent at the beach, a dog carries one when out for a run, a traveler souvenir remembering their destinations.
One by one the stones add up
a cairn is built, a mark of ‘being here’
a achievement accomplished
For the person out of luck.
Each stone marks a achievement a lone Moment in time, a special trip place or person, a story or rhyme.
So build the cairn of you life collect the moments not things. Live your life to the fullest and leave this earth with perfect wings.