Aims for trip
To take 2 van loads of tents, sleeping bags and bedding, blankets and men’s footwear down to the L’Auberge Des Migrants warehouse in Calais. We also had caravans to tow for Jungle Canopy, one from Carlisle to Calais, one from Leeds to Stansted. We also had some time to help out and volunteer down there too.
Van packed on Thursday 10/03 after work at Re-Act’s Edinburgh warehouse. Left house after work at 18:15 on Friday 11/03. Picked up a caravan that was donated to Jungle Canopy at Leeds from Rasheem at 10:50. Rasheem’s uncle had donated the caravan and I was soon dragging it south to motorway services near Stansted airport for Tony of Jungle Canopy to collect and get it prepped for a family and take over to Calais this Wednesday. I dropped the caravan off at 02:50 and continued my trek South. I made good time and had a chance for a power nap at Folkestone services for an hour at 05:00am. Arrived at Dover 06:30, left port at 07:40. Drove off the ferry at 10:00, arrived at the warehouse at 10:30 as planned.
I got unloaded without and delay and spoke to Dan who runs the warehouse about Re-Act possibly being able to relocate some of L’Auberges unwanted donations to other locations. There are far too many women’s and kids things and also a lot of larger sized mens clothes that just aren’t needed in Calais as most of the refugees here are Small & Medium sized and the majority of refugees in northern France are male.
I then met up with Stuart, who had unloaded his vanload of aid from Re-Act earlier on and was about to head into the Jungle with a caravan to meet with the Jungle Canopy team, Tony, Jo, Shelley, and an Iranian refugee called Behrooz who helps them out in the Jungle with interpreting, caravan moving, awning and tent erecting and aid distribution. We took the caravan through the South entrance into the Jungle with no problems (sometimes the police get upset when you are towing a caravan in) and were immediately confronted with the awful sight of an almost completely demolished south area of the camp. On my previous visit this was a densely populated area with tents and build shelters but now it was just a winding track with nothing at each side except the occasional lone standing community space like Baloos centre (a kids activity and support centre), Further up was worse, there were still smouldering remains of tents and shelters, with people trying to pick out any useful items and belongings among the carnage. It was very sad to see.
We met the Jungle Canopy team and took the caravan to it’s new home where a family would soon be moving into. So satisfying. Stuart then went off to other parts of the Jungle to assist people he’d met on previous visits and myself and the Jungle Canopy team spent the afternoon distributing aid to other families in caravans and moving a few caravans around to better, safer locations because of the current demolitions.
We got invited into a couple of the families caravans for tea after helping them and I had my first 2 cups of tea in my life at 37! I’ve never drank hot drinks but to decline would have been an insult. Jungle tea was actually not too bad though I’m in no hurry to become a tea drinker just yet! Another quick caravan move and then it was time to head away, the Jungle Canopy team had a ferry to catch and I was badly in need of some sleep after being awake for over 36 hours except for my 1 hour nap before the ferry. I headed for some food and went to my accommodation for the night.
Next morning I was up and raring to go again. I went to the L’Auberge Des Migrants warehouse in time for their daily meet up at 9am, jobs for the day were allocated for the day. I offered my average building skills and was teamed up with some guys over for the weekend from London and a lovely lady from L’Auberge (I forget her name, sorry!) who had been in Calais for several months building things. We went to the new camp at Dunkirk, authorised by the Mayor there who is defiantly helping the refugees despite the government. The new camp has only been open for a few weeks now but is coming along well, there’s hard ground and almost all accommodation is built structures like sheds, with metal sheet roofing. A vast improvement to tents and makeshift shelters made with tarpaulins and pallets. Toilets and washrooms are in containers and there are communal places to shelter and charge phones. The community kitchens are currently being built so food is cooked out of vans for now but it is in good supply and the people there are in a much better place than the old Dunkirk camp at Grande Synthe. Hopefully this new camp will be allowed to remain in place.
I spent the day with a man called Luca from London, we helped finish off the building of a community dining tent, using pallets as a sub floor, levelling them with scrap wood shims and screwing wood sheets on top. Tables and benches were then screwed down to the floor (they quickly go missing if not screwed!). Once that was done Luca had to go catch a boat and I helped out with some partitioning around a toilet container to give some privacy around the doors. It was now getting late so we headed back to the warehouse and I spoke more to Dan about moving the unwanted donations elsewhere. I put him on the phone to Liz from Re-Act and now plans are in motion to get a container full of clothing of gender, age and sizes not useful to Calais refugees, but useful in other countries caught up in the refugee crisis.
Morale in the camp was getting lower as there is the constant air of uncertainty about whether the Jungle will be allowed to exist at all or now. This week it was announced that the north part of the camp will be allowed to remain for now, but with 4,000 refugees in half of the space there was previously there is a lot of work to be done to get adequate shelter for everyone. Two days in Calais were just not enough for me, I’d happily have stayed all week or even longer but I had to be back for work on Tuesday. Volunteers are so needed over there to help in many ways, be it cooking, building, sorting donations, distributing aid and many other things that I probably don’t even know about yet!