Our Day In The Jungle Camp in Calais
When I was singing a carol at Midnight Mass this year, a line from one of the carols struck me. I can’t remember which particular line it was, something about peace and goodwill towards our fellow man. Whenever I think of the wars and atrocities going on in the world, it doesn’t seem like there’s a lot of goodwill towards our fellow man going on. I decided at that moment that I would do what I could. Sadly, I can not change international borders or stop war, but I can change things around me, we all can.
I set up a community fundraiser to go over to The Jungle Camp in Calais and the response was magnificent. We raised £1,000 and took over 30 bags of clothes, blankets, toys and books with us. The first part of this blog is to say THANK YOU to everyone that contributed. Parts of the UK press can be very negative about refugees and we were heartened by how positive and large the response from our community was. There is a lot of love out there which is wonderful to see and feel!
Yesterday we went to Calais. We did it as a day trip from Dover, which is perfectly do-able for anyone considering it. We took pens, paper and supplies for the school in the camp and dozens and dozens of musical instruments to give away, mostly plastic instruments such as recorders, harmonicas and percussion instruments. We gave a keyboard to the school and took lots of music with us. We bought a cajon and left it with a great community group in the camp. The cajon was enthusiastically played by some Afghan men jamming with us – they could play a rhythm or two!
The recipients of these instruments were both children and adults, all joyously received and enthusiastically played. We played music together, and danced, and sang. We had some beautiful moments of connectedness and heard stories that made us want to weep, stories of Fathers rescuing their children from the Taliban. I think if your child went to school and was attacked by the Taliban, had their arms cut open to stop them writing because they didn’t believe in education, and then they tried to abduct them into their army, to fight for a war you didn’t believe in, you would probably want to leave your country too.
Despite everything they’ve been through, the people we met yesterday were lovely, they were genuine, warm hearted, generous, open. We always felt safe. We had heard terrible stories of the French Police, but in our experience they were polite.
We struggled on the way back to surmise our day. What we do we reply when people asked “How was your day in Calais?”. To say, “It was great” appears too flippant, yet there were moment of greatness. Was it sad? Eye-opening? Humbling? Of course it was, it was always going to be. Does it make you re-evaluate your privileges? Yes, without a doubt. Does it make you want to do more? Yes.
We will be going back.
I made a video about our day. It doesn’t have any images of the refugees in it, they are not to be filmed like animals in the zoo and we are not there as tourists, but I wanted to document my day and my feelings. Just to add a disclaimer, these are my feelings alone. We went as a group and I suspect that most in the group feel the same way as I do, but it would be wrong for me to put words in their mouths. This is a sensitive issue with many complex strands that I do not try and pretend to have answers for. We just tried to spread a little love with music, and we achieved that. This is my account.
P.S. I believe in holding our leaders to account – David Cameron, please accept more refugees into the UK, we should be doing more. It is immoral to bomb countries then not look after innocent civilians fleeing war.