My second time in Calais

I have been thinking about writing another post about volunteering in Calais since my first visit there. For some reason this didn’t become a reality quickly. And now I have had this draft sitting here for a few weeks — time to post it as I have been back to Calais and it is time to write a third post.. or well to start thinking about it.

I went back again during third weekend of May and spent a Saturday sorting out donations, preparing food and then helping out at a sports day for the camp residents with Care4Calais. Watch a video here about football in the camp.

Sports day involved first cleaning the pitch.There was rubbish, glass, pieces, clothes and dead rats. Yes the latter can be seen there unfortunately a lot. People were excited for the day and eager Sudanese football players, who arrived there very early helped us out too.

What was wonderful during this day was that sports was the common language, no spoken language besides laughter was needed. I played volleyball for about three hours with people whose background I can only guess since I did not ask. But speaking did not matter and we had a lot of fun and laughed a lot.

Second day I joined the cleanup crew. There were around 50 volunteers there during the first day and 30–40 on the second day approximately. Around 2500 bin bags of rubbish were cleaned away by the volunteers. Camp residents were giving us thumbs up, thanking us and also some joined to help us. There was a nice Pakistani man who saw us cleaning near Ashram Kitchen (which has burnt down now three times) and came to talk to us. After a couple of minutes he offered us some chai and we had it all together. People’s gratitude and appreciation was seen everywhere in the camp.

One big scary thing that happened on May 26th was a big fire. What is interesting is that searching for the link to add here I googled “Calais camp fire May” and all the titles of the articles that came up on search were negative… Now me having a good idea how to move around in the camp and where are the locations of Ashram and Belgian kitchens were — everything seemed that it was turned around. A huge area of a small camp was burnt down and around 500 people were made homeless.

I also went to an amazing exhibition called Call me by my name: Stories from Calais and beyond. What was the most surprising thing for me was watching the videos and seeing how much the camp had changed. There were photos of the time when southern part was still there. Incredible to think that all these people are now in a half the size area and the population has increased by 1000 people since I was last there. Read about the latest census here. Also those photos and videos showed a camp that had rubbish everywhere- a view that I had not seen.

But how will it be next time I go back? I have no idea what to expect. I will be going back in couple of weeks for another clean up event. This time as one of the organisers. I have no fear going back. Just eagerness to help and get stuff done.

You may have noticed I have not used the word refugees here and instead I refer to the people in the camp as camp residents, people, etc. Here is an interesting video to watch. While on one hand it is a correct term to use as the definition is: a person who has been forced to leave their country in order to escape war, persecution, or natural disaster (thank you google). On the other hand it blends all people into the same and the word can be used so carelessly against the people who need help. Indeed, not all people who live in Calais camp are 100% good, but neither are people in real life in our societies. But that does not mean we should not help the ones who need it.

In the next month I will be heading back twice. If you would like to know how you can help feel free to comment or have a look here for more information.

Below are some photos from the exhibition.

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