For months I have tried to put into words my experience and time spent in Calais. Even now I cannot truly express what I have seen and also learnt from everything I’ve experienced since the summer of 2015.
It all began back in the Summer of 2015 when the media started show daily coverage of the refugee crisis happening across Europe and right on within arms reach in Calais, which on a clear day I can say of the coast of Ramsgate, my home town. It dawned on me proactive action was needed and if the government was not going to proactively help then I should at least try and do whatever I could. Even then I did not know what that was going to involve but regardless something had to happen.
So one day just talking with friends we decided to just collect some donations from friends and family. We started a facebook group for those who were interested for East Kent to Calais. At first it just looked like friends and family were going to be involved. Then I created an event and that’s where it kick started, one share resulted in 100’s of shares. Within weeks we had 100’s of people offering help, donations and the main thing to hit me the amount of compassion. This same chain reaction was at the same time happening across the country with local groups popping up in most main towns and cities.
In my experience I met so many amazing people, donating what little they had to a such a cause. Also the amount of people offering their time to come and help in Calais. I have been part of convoys of volunteers going over to Calais and helping, and on many more times on my own just because that was what I could do just to help a little. I spent every single day off I had in Calais helping a charity there working in the warehouse, or out distributing donations to the people in camp. This continued for approximately 3-4 months, not one single day off yet I never complained even though the tiredness was there. For 2 days each week on my days off I could make a difference, for those 2 days I allowed someone to smile even just for a moment. It is truly amazing to see what giving even just a jumper to someone can do, a jumper?? something me and you take so much for granted.
I worked alongside many amazing volunteers, those who travelled with me on weeks and those I met in Calais. There are a group of amazing “long term” volunteers, many of which have given up their jobs and lives to help those in need. I am truly in awe of these guys they work day in day out and yet you never see them complain. They get up and help each single day making a difference each single day. These people I will never ever forget and will have memories of them until the day I die. Not just of the good times we had every time I was there but of the true human compassion every one of them had.
The camp itself is something I never dreamed I would see or have to see in the likes of Europe. The conditions are poor, wet and cold with very little but what we can give. Yet there is so much resourcefulness, the things people can do when they have nothing is truly inspiring and something I will never forget. The people as well are the most amazing people I have ever met. Every time I visit I always make sure to stop by a small group of Sudanese who fled tyranny and war. They always smile and they are always so welcoming, they offer me their last biscuit and make me the most amazing coffee every time even though they have so little to give. Their stories and experiences are something I would never wish on anyone, yet they remain hopeful and strong willed.
Now I could write a story on day to day life and each of my experiences in Calais, but I shall not. I will never forget the true compassion the people of Kent gave me when I asked for donations and to the vast amount of people I still keep in contact with. It was an amazing, stressful experience and something I cannot express my gratitude more for. Also to the people I met in Calais such amazing work being done every day and still being done. Hopefully soon to return myself and again help provide that smile to another person even if just for a minute
In solidarity we have been but our compassion shines bright!!!