Sandra (3/3)

The ‘Jungle’ in Calais

We had donations collected before we went to Calais for building materials and food. We went to the supermarket and saw how much we can buy for 700€. We had almost 4,000€ and were so pleased. Three vans full and we were so proud of what we wanted to bring! That’s bullshit. 

Currently (unofficial numbers in January 2016) there are about 7000 refugees in Calais. In the smaller camp in Dunkirk it was said there are 3000. More women and children are living there. The food is gone so fast!

They say 1€ per person per day. You can imagine that when there are 7000 (people) it’s not much food for everyone. That was terrible for me when I handed out food. The line was long and at some point there was no food left. And there are still children waiting!  

In the ‘Jungle ‘ you see a lot of garbage. Torn apart and broken tents. It is dune terrain and muddy because of the rain. This makes it seem even sadder. We needed permits to get into the Jungle. We got registered to get in.

This camp is surrounded by a lot of policemen, in full regalia, wearing special masks, pepper spray. You can’t imagine. They throw teargas in the camp. Where children are asleep! There are even signs “Here are children sleeping. Please do not throw tear gas”. And yet they do it. They do not want these people there. The Jungle is an illegal camp.

There is hardly anything on TV about it because these people are illegal there. They want to go to Great Britain because they maybe have relatives there. Many indeed have no official papers. They would be deported in any event and in the Jungle they have a place to hide.

How bad must it be that you have such fear to be sent back so that you hide in such a camp?

So we are arrived in Calais and went straight to a huge warehouse where we dropped off our donations. The donations were previously registered. We immediately had to help, although we just wanted to drop off the donations. But they needed people to help sorting (donations)

On the second day we went to the camp in Calais in the morning where I helped in the kitchen. That was really great. It was really fun! When everything was finished cooking, I said to the boss, that I want to join her to go to Dunkirk and she said to me “Yes, tomorrow you come with me.”

I believe she had good instinct and that’s why she has first taken me with her to Calais to distribute. When we were back in the warehouse, she looked at me and asked how I am. “Not so good” I said.

In Dunkirk there is less to eat because the focus is on Calais. If there’s no more food, there’s no more food. In Dunkirk there are no wooden cabins, as there is only tents. Besides the volunteers who bring the food no one gets into the camp. The block it because they do not want it to get bigger. No one gets in there.

The medical care is very bad. There are many sick children. The medical care is also run by volunteers. The medical donations are so important! Against scabies for example. Someone who has scabies has to have a shower, fresh and clean clothes and then put the scabies lotion on it and after that you should sleep in a clean bed. But that’s not possible!

People get their food in a pot. No cutlery.One even just had a lid from a paint bucket. If someone says he has five people in the family, then he gets five portions of food. A family has put the pot on the table.

The infant, about a year old, was sitting with her legs spread around the pot and everyone stood around the table with their fingers in the pot.

 It’s all about survival. You wonder “Do they starve? Do they freeze?” The images in the media can’t transfer what is really going on. I really thought I knew what I was getting myself into. No, I did not.

I had never been in such a place. My co-volunteers said it would be like that in every slum. But I’ve never been in a slum. I have seen something like that for the first time. And that there is something like that just 450km next to my doorstep… it was hard for me to understand.

You feel small and helpless.

I definitely need some distance now. The front is for me now further away. I want to organize donations here instead. I’m maybe not hard enough for the front.

My life is completely different now. Before, when I went in late November to buy winter clothes I thought “Yay, nice shopping twice a year”. I’ve always been looking forward to it. And then I was there in the shopping mall and I had so much stuff together and was standing in front of the scarves and thought “Will you take the gray or beige scarf?”

And then I all of the sudden became sad. I have the choice, other people do not even have a choice. They have to take anything that comes out of the box. Or they have nothing. I have put everything (clothes) back on the shelves I had gathered. I no longer wanted it. At home you look around and all the things you have…it’s completely different now. There is so much useless stuff. Many things I see now as ballast.

I am grateful for everything I have.You become humble.

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