Kitty Tiefenthal, age 16, student at Hautlieu school
My Summer Holiday
This Summer my family did not go to Corfu, Tenerife or Barbados. Instead, we ditched our sandals and bikinis for our boots and baggy trousers which were ideal for walking around the predominantly Muslim and muddy refugee camp in Calais. We did not go into the tropics, instead we went to volunteer in the ‘Jungle’.
I met a 15 year old afghan boy there on the day he walked into the camp. He became my friend. Samily speaks good English and keeps in touch. He tells me he is ‘unhappy in Jungle’ and there is ‘too much danger’. He is frightened and homesick and asks me when I am coming back to see him again because he has no friends in the Jungle. He hopes to go to England and become a doctor. He calls his mother every day to check up on his 6 year old brother whom he left behind in Afghanistan and will most likely never see again. Samily is brave and strong and was top of his class in school and I think our country needs many more people like him. No one my age should have to experience anything that he has gone through. Imagine having to run away from your life. His father was shot and his friend was next. His mother gave him as much money as she had and told him to go. Imagine how his mother felt, sending her 15 year old son ALONE through Turkey, Italy, Germany, France and many more countries. It has taken him two months. And he told me he ran out of money in Turkey. When I was in the Jungle, I bought him a phone from the money I earned waitressing this summer at the Portelet Bay Café. At least he can speak with his mother whenever he likes. I know that would be the most important thing for me. We took him to a youth club which some volunteers have set up and asked them to look after him. We gave him a tent and a sleeping bag and some clothes. It is only with donations we are able to do this. The Jersey Calais Refugee Aid Group send donations and money once a month with volunteers from Jersey.
Monthly trips are coordinated in cooperation with Care4Calais, Help Refugees and L’Auberge des Migrants. Volunteers help by sorting aid in the warehouse and work in the camp, either teaching or distributing aid to refugees. The combination of preparation in the warehouse and the work in the camp is fulfilling, but also very intense and the direct contact with refugees is something which can hit you quite powerfully.
The population of the Calais Camp is now bigger than it has ever been at any point in the past. Even though the French authorities have cleared the southern end of the “Jungle,” all they have achieved is that there are now more people on a smaller piece of territory. Consequently, the atmosphere in the camp is understandably growing more tense. There is now also a record number of children roaming around the camp. The Help Refugees census of July recorded over 700 unaccompanied minors.
Volunteer teams are always accompanied by a senior member of the charity, who has been to Calais before and who is responsible for the distribution of donations brought from Jersey. Apart from goods, JCRAG have also been able to help support initiatives including the School Bus Project, the Kernow Aid Unit and The Laïque School, volunteers have also been able to take over cash, to buy much needed supplies and put it into places where it is most needed at that particular time. All financial donations are therefore directly used for the relief of refugees in the camps.
JCRAG, entirely run by volunteers, rely on support from local people, schools and businesses to continue to raise awareness and provide aid to refugees most in need in Calais. These are desperate times with appalling suffering for people fleeing hardship and war, as an island community we have proved that we are able to unite to provide hope, care and love by delivering aid direct to those most in need.