Helping Refugees in Calais

The beach in Calais
Lovely beach in Calais

Sitting on a beach in Calais, with the sun warming my skin and the fresh air from the sea, I’m lost in my thoughts, as one does. I’m surrounded by people on vacation, seemingly oblivious to what’s happening only a few kilometers away. As Thomas Gray said: ”ignorance is bliss” and in this precise moment, I couldn’t agree more. How I wish I could sometimes stop caring. I wish I could walk past a beggar or someone in a wheelchair and not have any second thoughts. Not to worry about their well-being. To a certain extent I do manage to move on, but some days I’d like to be able to ignore some things. It would give me a break. I can’t help this part of me but I can do something about it. I know I can’t help everyone. And I am well aware that some people in Canada need help as well. But for the next three months, I will help here, in Calais.

I have now been working for Help Refugees and l’Auberge des Migrants in Calais for about one week. Once again I’ve been meeting inspiring people, from the volunteers to the refugees.

And being surrounded by so much resilience and seeing people working together towards a common goal really inspires me to keep going.

Not everybody agrees

I had a rather interesting chat on my way from Charles de Gaulle airport to Calais with my ride. The driver is a customs officer at the port, so every day he’s in touch with people trying to cross over, truck drivers trying to avoid coming to this area at night and locals tired of having a refugee camp in the neighborhood. It was lovely to chat with someone experiencing a totally different angle than the one I’m used to.

Perspective is everything. When you see only one part of the puzzle, it’s a lot easier to assume you are right or to judge others. But when you take the time to calmly discuss with people holding different views, it helps get a complete view of the situation. In this particular case, nobody asked to be put in this situation, none of the refugees want to live in a camp. None of the locals wanted to have people living in this kind of conditions. So we have to keep this in mind when dealing with any issue arising.

Calais, France
Calais, France

Keeping people interested

One of the main issues at the moment is that most people and journalists lost interest in the refugees’ situation. Things haven’t changed all that much, many men, women, families and unaccompanied minors keep arriving every day. The Southern part of the camp was destroyed during the last eviction last spring and while some people left to go to centers, most people moved to the already packed Northern part. And with the many new arrivals every day, there’s more and more pressure on¬†charities to help cover the basics needs of people in the camp. The Jungle keeps growing and at the last census, the population was over 7000 people.

I, for myself, do not like hearing about everything going wrong in the world every day, but even if it’s not pretty, we do need to be aware of what is happening, and it’s our duty to express ourselves loud and clear when we witness abuse, lack of supports or any situation where basic human rights are being violated. If you and I look the other way, abuse can continue with relative impunity.

Because of my new challenges, while being in Calais, I will now aim to publish a new article every two weeks for the next few months. So if you do not hear from me as regularly, do not worry, we will have time to catch up a few months from now!

If you wish to donate, volunteer or learn more about the situation in Calais, have a look at the Help Refugees website.

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