Dad and decided to put our emotions to the side, silently reminding ourselves why we were here in the first place. We walked to the entrance of the camp, attempting to maintain an aspect of confidence in order to not appear too vulnerable. The best way that my mind was able to draw a parallel with the squalor that these human beings were living in, was to picture a miserable aftermath of a festival ground, which has seen nothing but terrential rain. Throughout the camp there were disregarded clothes and litter swarming the edges of every corner. I spotted some portaloos (‘who empties these?’ I thought). I was pleasantly surprised to see a cluster of mini shops with incredibly neatly piled stock (where was the animalistic chaos that the media so bravely declared?). Huge generators provided this short term dose of reality for the inhabitants of the camp.
As we walked further and further into the depths of this vast makeshift town, we passed a nightclub with a multicoloured discoball spinning from the ceiling, an information centre, restaurants, a woman’s centre, a building that providing therapy, a town church and so many other points of rest bite – it was incredibly heartwarming and eye opening to see how the human race can react in situations such as this. One thought that did cross my mind, was how these people were able to buy food at the little shops – did they use euros or was there an element of trade going on within the camp?). This question was left unanswered.
The camp was plastered with chalk drawings and colourful posters declaring peace and love – I couldn’t help but feel incredibly moved at these clear displays of emotional projection. Children as young as one were carried in their parents arms as they wobbled over the weaving stones paths. Every so often a pair of women strolled by with a plain look on their faces as if they were simply mooching around in their home town. My initial intimidation sunk as dad I blended in with the rest of the inhabitants and volunteers, left completely unbothered.
Embarrassed of our voyeur status, we called Lisa to offer our assistance. Suddenly, roaring through the muddy ‘jungle’ in a truck that resembled something from Mad Max, came Lisa. She jumped out and led us to a 2m by 2m shed where a group of incredibly young boys were staying. Lisa tends to this group of boys who are aged between 10-14 and parentless. The best way I can think to describe this woman, is as an extremely emotionally dedicated social worker (who is not being financially rewarded of course). For these parentless children, all they have is Lisa, the other volunteers and each other. When they roll over at night, the only thing of comfort that they can reach for is a fire retardant felt wall covering (after their previous ‘home’ burned down, the boys were helped by a local charity who provided them with a solid wooden structure, sheltering them from the wind and rain). Lisa attempts to feed the boys on a regular basis (leading them to get some food, they follow behind her like a group of baby ducklings). However, feeding them is not her only task, she must also attempt to stop them jumping the night trains, where two children have recently died risking their life for some type of escape to the sacred lands of the United Kingdom. Her job is not a simple one.
As we attempted to attach a gas pipe to a mini stove for the boys using some hair gel as a lubricant (do’s and don’t’s essentially evaporate in the camp) a young, slightly rounded little boy grabbed my hand and began serenading me in his mother tongue. My heart sank as he signalled to the sky and back to my eyes, passionately closing his own eyes as he did so. The song made no sense to me whilst simultaneously making all the sense to me in the world. This moment didn’t fit the criteria of cliche charity moments we see on television where everyone dances around singing and crying whilst the chosen celebrity turns to the camera and encourages the audience to donate ‘just £1’. No, the rain was beating down hard and the gale force winds encouraged the thousands of tents to aggressively flap in the wind. Unfortunately a vast amount of media coverage on calais appears to be overwhelmingly negative (cheers DailyMail). After receiving a hug goodbye, my heart truly began to ache.
I did not leave the camp feeling as if I had made a difference that day, I left disheartened and a little defeated. The reality of the situation does not allow for rest bite or relief. However, the work that these long term volunteers are doing is incredible, and I guess that example of polarity between love and desertion restored my faith a little. I believe that the work they are doing is a beautiful display of unquestionable love that the human race can be so great at providing. Love can only transpire from one person to another through something untangible. This task does not deserve praise, just imitation. Get out there and do something.