Monday, 19 October 2015

The People Share Everything! A FB post by Stephanie Louise: October 19th 2015

The 'jungle' is grim, it's wet, muddy and squalid. There are tents as far as the eye can see and make shift shacks which have a variety of purposes; churches, mosques, first aid, and small restaurants where people club together food from the aid parcels to cook and share together.

Everyone is there for a common purpose and they support each other.

There are a few stand pipes of water but I believe it's not for drinking it still needs to be boiled down but people queue and take turns without incident.

The camp is on a flood plain, so is often very wet and flooded. There is row after row of tents, big and small - many damaged with tarp helping keep them somewhat water tight. We are up to our ankles in mud the majority of the time and with wellies it's manageable just about to walk about. But many of the people I saw were wearing flipflops, some were wearing odd shoes and one young boy of around 10 was wearing a flip-flop on one foot and and an ill fitting trainer on the other.

There are many women and children there; more than I had expected.

The first person I met in the camp was a young woman called Mimi. She was 6 months pregnant. She tapped on our van window desperate for drinking water and told me how she fled Syria with her son and husband to find safety, after her brothers and mother were killed by ISIS. Somewhere in Sudan she ended up separated from them. She has no idea where they are or if she will ever find them again. She walked here across many countries wearing flip-flops and just the clothes on her back. She has been there 3 months and hopes to come to England because we are 'kind people' who can help her find work. She was so kind and even worried about me getting wet as it was raining hard. She kept fussing about my hood covering my hair telling me I would get wet and cold. I cried, gave her my shoes, a jacket some water and a hug. She told me how she will most likely give birth in the camp, she won't get much if any support medically. I will never forget her and pray she makes it to safety very soon.

We went to the camp with clothing from the warehouse and went back out with our toiletry packs and food parcels. Men and some women queued and whilst we had been told how to manage any situations arising there were none as it was managed well and the people are not aggressive. They queued patiently and waited their turn. Each one of them looked us in the eyes, smiled and said thank you, some many times over. I think I heard thank you in about 8 different languages. When we ran out of food with still around 300 in the queue at that time I panicked (needlessly). I expected anger and frustration but there wasn't any. They just shrugged and said "maybe tomorrow" and my heart broke all the more.

They stayed around the van to talk to us and share their stories. They were elated by the letters we handed out from the school children. Some crowded round whilst those who could read English read out letters to those who couldn't. I met Kalid (not sure on spelling) who was a bridge engineer, a young man who until last year was studying law, a dentist and a taxi driver. They smiled, joked, talked and were so very polite and appreciative. Driving through camp we were waved in and out with genuine smiles and appreciation. At times I stood alone in a crowd of camp residents and I felt safe- never threatened and if anything quite protected. Nobody called out or grabbed our arms begging which was something I had expected. We were mainly asked for shoes and food and it was painfully obvious why.

These people share everything; they live alongside each other no matter their religion, without incident. They are kind, polite and generous. They just want to find safety, a place to call home for themselves and their family. They are qualified and skilled individuals who through no fault of their own have found themselves just 55 miles from Folkstone.

Many have obvious injuries, some from war and torture and some from their desperate attempts to cross the channel or from their horrific journeys to get where they are. There were also a lot on crutches struggling to get about in these horrendous conditions.

The French police are harsh - as is our UK government. There is row after row of fences and barbed wire. I can't help but wonder how much the money spent on keeping them out could have gone to sorting a more permanent solution to this ever growing problem. Some have had their passports burnt or confiscated and have been treated as animals. There are no large aid agencies there helping ease the situation so it's utter chaos. Those who are there on the ground day to day have given up their lives in Britain (and France) to help but many are exhausted and self funding. Who knows how long they will remain there. I suspect until their own money runs out.

No words can describe the feelings I have towards these people. I didn't want to come home. I wanted to stay and do whatever I can to help. The image of Mimi standingdin the rain, pregnant in ill fitting clothes and flipflops soaked to the bone will haunt me for a lifetime. .

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