I had written about how my daughter and I wanted to go to Calais to bring donations to the refugees who were in Calais, and on Sunday we made that happen..
I had spoken to my daughters head teacher to see if I could ask on our school Facebook page for donations and she kindly allowed us to do so and made room in the school for parents to drop items off and hold them until we went. So on Friday I went with the van and picked the items up. I was taken aback by the kindness of the children and families and the amount that was donated to this cause.
On Sunday afternoon, my daughter and I with the car only having room for us and no one else, drove to Folkestone from Glasgow after I finished work, to catch the 01:30am Eurostar train. We arrived around 03:00 am (they are 1hr ahead), booked into our hotel and slept for 5hrs before getting up for breakfast. The hotel was only 5 mins away which was intended as I knew that after 7.5hrs of driving, any more on top of that would have been too much.
I was nervous about driving on the other side of the road only because things like the steering wheel not being on the other side, can be quite confusing and lets face it, when you’re tired , its these little things that can really make a difference!
When we were driving from the Eurostar terminal to our hotel, we were already faced with the reality of the situation.. We could see groups of men walking towards the tunnel with hopes and fears moving them on from where they had come from which for some was as much as a 2 hr walk from their camp. It was cold and I can’t begin to imagine how things will be when the temperature drops even more. My daughter couldn’t understand why people in life have to face these issues and she wants to tell the government that no one is the boss of anyone and everyone should live a happy life no matter what. I wish we could all take the view of 8yr olds.
When we went down for breakfast, we realised that our hotel was the “hub” for police who were called in to police the area, and acted as their accommodation. I think apart from 2/3 other people, we were the only civilians who were staying there. I have to say that I felt a bit uncomfortable and that we needed to keep our reason for being in Calais, a secret. I’m sure this was just a silly thought and I was just intimidated by the whole experience.
We set off to find the “jungle” and a woman that I had made contact with but unfortunately we were unable to make contact and M and I were on our own. We drove about for quite some time and we encountered more people walking as well as other police who were in fields with guns and dogs, making sure that folk weren’t making it through the various fences. I think they were pretty crazy about their barbed wire and putting it up anywhere and everywhere, it was ridiculous.
After driving around for quite some time, we asked a policeman if he would direct us, explaining that we would be going back to the tunnel terminal , returning to the UK ,and he point blank refused to do so. He said that it wasn’t a place for children and I asked him why he thought this as there were many children in the camp/jungle and he couldn’t answer. I told him that we had made this trip with good intentions and he then gave us some information. Off we set and realised after an hour of trying, that he didn’t give us correct info at all. I don’t think it was entirely out of badness although I was angry after our efforts to come down. On our drive we saw and spoke to three men who were carrying sleeping bags , walking towards a field close to the tracks. We won’t ever know their fate and due to language barrier, have no idea if they were coming from the camp but suspect so.
It was nearing our time to go home and we still had a van full of donations, we were both tired and my daughter was starting to feel sick, had a temp and I didn’t know what to do. I wanted to talk to these people in the camps to let them know that we welcome them and what they have been through , it is not right , the conditions that they are living in and what they have had to escape from.. I’m just a woman with a child who if she could take all of them back to Britain – would. naïve, yes. I don’t understand all of the politics behind this that is going on but my daughter and I just wanted to do something to help. No we can’t save the world but we can contribute towards changing conditions and helping them , these incredibly strong individuals.
Deflated, we went back to the tunnel..both silent with our thoughts. The thoughts that I had were about how the media is completely wrong in their reporting of the situation. Imagine, one day you were sitting in your house or school and you were going about your daily life. All of a sudden, your life is at risk and you need to leave, now. You have to gather what little possessions you can which might be your phone in order to keep in touch with family who are also fleeing and the clothes on your back. You might be pregnant or have kids with you. you have to go. They are living lives that we are currently leading. comfortable lives. They have to leave or be killed. That is the reality.
I made contact with a few people via twitter and we managed to secure a place to drop the items off in Preston. The organisation will be going this weekend and I am so glad that they will be reaching the people who need them, to provide comfort and warmth and to know that people care…
I know a few people think that we should have just donated via an organisation here and reading this, you may think the same but that trip sparked a lot of ideas and I have a budding 8yr old activist of a daughter! It won’t be our last trip, not at all. We will be linking up and helping out as much as we can.
As an aside.. we could have easily smuggled 2 people into our car… it would have been difficult to have turned people away..