Two years previously, I had travelled to Calais with a convoy of cars full of donations to give to Care4Calais and visited the refugee ‘Jungle’ Camp when it was full to capacity of roughly 10,000 people.
Individuals who have fled war and brutality and wanting safety. It was an experience I would never forget and I had felt I had become a witness to something significant in our history. I always thought I would come back one day to help.
Back at the Care4Calais warehouse, volunteers work hard to sort through and organise donations and prepare for distributions. Everyday we would prepare packages, clothes and useful items to give, especially for the bitterly cold days and nights. I really had no idea how the refugees were able to survive the strong winds and rain everyday. They are superhuman.
Living conditions are just horrible. There is not one particular place to settle, or formal shelter or safe area to sleep. Distributions were taken to areas where known groups are. Groups of people of all backgrounds; Ethiopians, Eritreans, Sudanese, Afghanis. All very friendly and grateful for any item or advice given.
The best part I believe we were able to give, is the human aspect. To give the opportunity to be listened to, to have a conversation, play football, the fun small things in life which make you feel like a normal equal human being. After distributions, we gave people the chance to tell us their stories, how and why they decided to take the very dangerous and long trips to cross many countries and seas to find a better life. Something I think we all deserve to have. One particular man brought me to tears as he told me he was a Midwife in Ethiopia. He was a softly spoken and polite man with kind eyes, who has brought life into this world and yet he is sleeping rough fighting for his own life. Travelling to Caen, Paris and Brussels, we heard similar situations and stories of brutality, torture and desperation.
I have one lasting memory from my last distribution at the old Jungle site. We had just finished handing out 400 pieces of fruit and, as usual, hung around to chat. Three guys from Eritrea came up to me and we quickly got on to the conversation of music. Using my phone, I decided to YouTube all their favourite tracks from back home. We stood around dancing, trying to keep warm, but also just enjoying and sharing common universal interests; music and dance.
Going home I had a strange feeling. A feeling of guilt and sadness. For how easy it was for me to go home to my lovely friends and family, leaving behind this ongoing humanitarian crisis. But, I feel privileged to have have met beautiful, strong and inspiring people, both refugees and fellow volunteers, and I will always carry them in my heart.