Our first stop was at the L’auberge des migrants warehouse where we spent a couple of hours stocking up vans for the convoy we were joining for the afternoon’s distribution. We combined our blankets, sleeping bags and tents with those of others so that each van only contained one type of item for a more efficient and quick distribution once at the jungle. Other items were put in their relevant categories in the warehouse where we joined other volunteers sorting through the mountain of clothes.
|Donations at L'Auberge des Migrants|
More donations were arriving all the time and lots more people are desperately needed to help with sorting through it all, so that it’s possible to get it where it’s needed in the camp. If anyone’s got any days to spare- the warehouse needs you! I filled my empty car with items not required, to bring them back home instead of adding to the growing disposal issue in the warehouse. An enormous truckload of pallets turned up which was brilliant as shelter-building is the big thing in Calais over the next couple of months. The pallets are making great floors for the new structures which are rapidly going up each day in the camp.
Once in the camp the vans were opened one at a time or far enough away from each other so as to keep things as calm as possible. People formed the familiar lines behind the vans and if not helping with the actual distribution procedure we took the opportunity to chat a bit with people who were waiting. I was struck by how much joking, laughter and smiles were shared with us, the ability of people to keep such a strong sense of humour under the harsh and awful conditions they are surviving in. Others talked of their journeys or their families elsewhere. It’s hard to hold back the tears. The man who wanted to show us his phone video of his children left behind in Syria, film of them laughing and in his arms, “I miss them so much”. Saying he hadn’t been able to speak to them for a week now and had heard there had been a bomb just a couple of houses away. He had felt the journey could be more dangerous for them so he left first to try and secure a safe home in the UK which he could bring them to. How hard to weigh up the least dangerous decision of only inherently dangerous options.
Another thing which was striking over our visit was the generosity of people. People wanting to share their small amount of food or make us tea, serve us a meal, offer a chair to sit on... So many greetings “Hello, how are you?”and shaking of hands. Constantly feeling humbled by the people we meet.
We dropped several boxes of tools, diy stuff, tarps etc to the builder’s corner which is a constant hive of activity, hammering and sawing, putting the frames together for the ‘houses’ which are replacing the inadequate tents for the growing numbers of families, women and children coming to the camp. I was told an estimate of about 200 more people are arriving each day. I met several people just arriving while I was there, looking a bit bewildered, tired or asking where they could find medical care. There is nowhere near enough medical care for all those who need it. The shelters are based on priority need, families with children, so for now, many are turned away when approaching for wood or ‘houses’. This is where I decided to plant a large amount of my donation cash as it feels like this is the most urgent need at the moment with colder weather, rain and Winter coming.
In this field, we also arrived while a great community atmosphere was being expressed through Kurdish music and dancing, which we clapped along or joined in with. The resilience of spirit again which is so evident here!
The amazing smile of the pregnant woman I talked with, pointing to her belly and saying “nine month”, about to give birth living in her tent here with the life-threatening level of hygiene issues within the camp – how could anyone find this situation acceptable and not entirely shameful of our governments?
When I went back to the car for some more tools, two small girls were playing, running hand in hand laughing through the grass amongst the butterflies...The shining beauty of these young lives held captive and placed in danger here by our Government’s cruel border policies.
As we drove back to the tunnel we passed groups of men on the long walk to risk their lives again in the nightly attempt to cross to the UK, and wished so deeply that we could assist them safely to a new life in safety.