After a few days sleeping and relaxing in Brighton, I feel like I can finally take the time to write something up. As I logged on I realised that almost one month has gone by since I last published something. So much for thinking I would be able to keep writing whilst volunteering!
Since it’s been a while, I thought I would update you guys on how things are going in Calais.
As to be expected, I find being back out in the normal world very challenging. Even if I know it’s how things should be, I can’t help but compare how lucky some people are to have been born on the right piece of land. Away from any worries, wars or disasters.
How small my previous and current worries look like sometimes.
I find it also so easy to forget that not everyone is concerned with the well-being of strangers. This is the most fascinating and most difficult thing about what I am doing right now. I work alongside amazing people with whom I share true core values with. And it becomes such a little bubble that it makes it really easy to forget about the ”normal life”.
Volunteering with l’Auberge des Migrants and Help Refugees mean that every single day I meet inspiring humans. But it also means that every day, working in the warehouse I am acutely aware of how little donations we have to send into camp to the 10 000 people stranded here.
Quick disclaimer before I keep going: of course some people might be here because they want to, but for most of them they are here either waiting for an opportunity to hop onto a lorry in the hopes of finally getting across the pond or waiting for their chance to get a place in one of the CAOs (Centre d’accueil et d’orientation) in France. They are stuck here, waiting. Summer is pretty much over, autumn is getting here. The nights are colder, the rain much more present and the food supplies scarce. We haven’t been able to build any shelters in the Jungle for months now, and there’s barely any space left to put new tents up. A solution needs to be found to accommodate people before winter gets here. The conditions are appalling, and even more distressing is the very little interest people, journalists and governments have in this situation.
As usual, when having to deal with something difficult, it’s a lot easier to pretend it’s not actually happening. I’m sure I’m not the only one to have waited far too long to have a difficult conversation, to resign from a job, end a relationship, etc. But you know as well as I do that waiting for something difficult to disappear on its own rarely works. It’s exactly the same here with the Jungle and the many other camps in Europe. Just because we don’t want to have that difficult conversation doesn’t mean that it will disappear. On the contrary, people still keep arriving every day. People just like you and me, fleeing persecution and war, hoping for a brighter and safer future. Being silent is no longer an option. We have to be loud and make it known that we can no longer wait for something to happen and things to start changing. We are all humans, after all, made from the same flesh and bones, carrying the same dreams and aspirations.
Living in little bubbles
It’s always interesting to me to see how we create little bubbles that quickly become our new normal. Whether it is travelling and meeting new people every day, or being surrounded by children all day while working in a school, whatever it is, we adapt so easily. Even for people living in the refugee camps, it quickly becomes their new normal. Dealing with tear gas on an almost daily basis, never having any personal space, living in a tent planted on sand dunes. They adapt so quickly that sometimes when they leave and go somewhere else, they get scared and want to come back to the Jungle, where they know people and now feel ”at home”.
As overwhelming as the warehouse or the camp can be, being back in the normal world is at least as overwhelming. It feels as though I have forgotten how to do small talk when encountering new people. And I’m always surprised when the new people I meet don’t seem to be aware that the refugee camps are still very much present. Not only in France and Greece but everywhere in Europe and the world. Another struggle of mine: the simple fact that because I happen to be born in Canada, I am able to cross over to the UK as often as I’d like, no questions asked (or barely any). This simple fact fucks with my mind every time. I’ve always known that life was unfair but this definitely highlights how privileged some of us can be. And it motivates me, even more, to talk about this situation. Bring awareness to this. And get back out there to help.
Time to act
I admit, some days I feel helpless. Some days I feel like what I am doing is not actually making a difference. But some days I do realise that the clean jumper or the warm sleeping bag we are sending into camp will go to one specific individual and whilst it might not change the world, it does make a hell of a difference to that person knowing that some of us do care. Enough to put our own life on hold to build tents, make food packs, sort underwear. We do this because we are all humans after all. And this could easily be you, me or any of our friends or family currently stuck in this Jungle.
In a few years from now, we will look back at this moment in time and judge ourselves and our government’s lack of action. During my time on this Earth, I might not get to see a proper change in how most people live and how people care about each other, but I will not let this thought bring me down. I will keep saying it loud and clear: We are all humans and each and every one of us deserves safety, food, shelter and knowing that somewhere out there, other humans care.
Let make the most of our abilities and do the best we can to help each other. And stop pretending we are different. We are not. We are just very lucky that our countries are not at war right now. So let’s stop saying us and them. Stop being scared people might be coming to ”steal our jobs”. Stop acting like you are better than anyone else. Stop thinking that because you were born in Canada, the UK, France or wherever else that you are entitled to security but that other people are not. Talk to your neighbour, greet the elderly, laugh with the kids and stop being afraid of being afraid. Your actions and decisions will shape the world we live in. Let’s improve it together. One waterproof jacket at a time.
To donate either time or money, visit Help Refugees.
To do something more political, contact your MP, or your government representatives. Let them know you do support any action to help fellow humans. Let’s bring the kids over to the UK. Provide shelter to the people in need. Reunite families.
You don’t have to come all the way to the Jungle to help. There’s always people needing a little extra help everywhere. Get involved. Volunteer. Retirement homes, schools, depression hotlines, animal shelters, there are endless options to make a difference in someone else’s life. Pick something and go for it!