This is a guest post by Aisha Olivia.
Before I start I want to say a massive thank you to the lovely people I shared this experience with. I honestly could not think of any other people so like minded as me, that I felt so comfortable being vulnerable around!
Last week a few friends and I had the greatest privilege of travelling to Calais, visiting the "Jungle" and meeting some amazing people who were refugees as well as migrants.
Friday 18th September, 2015
The night before we had prepped the van and filled it with items taken from a list of needing things that had been kindly donated to us from friends and family.
As we woke up and began to head off an unnaturally sick feeling began to rise in the pits of my stomach. Despite being organised, I was walking into a situation completely blind, although I knew what to expect nothing could truly prepare me for the magnitude of what was to follow in the next couple of hours and days.
On arrival to Calais, we met at a warehouse filled with tons of boxes of things people had donated that required sorting through. Raring to get stuck in we began to tackle through mountains of jumpers, sorting them into sizes and rejecting ones that were inappropriate to give: putting them in a pile to be re donated for a different cause. Time went past in a blur, hunger evaded me and in that moment I had forgotten my own needs and was giving my energy to the people who needed my help and were standing in the torrential rain waiting for the distributions that were currently occurring and would continue to do so throughout the day.
As hours passed, the day was beginning to end for us and was only starting for those that would begin to risk their lives: in the hopes of finding a new one, where the sounds of bombs would not litter their ears and strike fear into their young.
Heading into the jungle for the first time to meet some people who invited us for tea at their make shift homes, was something I could never prepare myself for. As we drove into the "Jungle" the hundreds of eyes watching us drove fear into me, these people were human beings that had no basic humanitarian rights. Eye contact was the most difficult for me, despite all they were going through, they were still able to laugh with each other and be as happy as possible. In that moment, all the small things I so easily complained about no longer mattered. I had a warm bed to crawl into after my day, my family were at the other end of FaceTime and I had no fear of being sent back to a place were war and poverty were as guaranteed as the sun rising the next morning. I couldn't handle that thought, and with no way to express myself the tears began to roll down my cheeks as I began to question everything I had ever believed in.
My own silence had stunned me and I wanted nothing more than to give these people hope, but what hope could I give without it being false?
Saturday 19th September, 2015
After a difficult nights sleep, I was determined to give the day my all, to speak to people and listen to their stories, another privilege I had appreciated being trusted with.
I was working on distributing the items we had prepped the day before, so I had to fake my confidence until it was truly there. Smiling changed from being unnatural to something that was essential when interacting. I began to momentarily forgot the dire needs, and instead decreased any power balance that existed between us and treated the lines of people as family and friends I knew who just simply needed a helping hand. The weight suddenly lifted off me and I began to work much efficiently with my team: our focus being to help in any way possible.
I've built friendships and relationships that I've come away with, and a promise together that we would continue to go back and support each individual.
I fear that I haven't completely explained myself through my words, but this is an unedited raw post that I wanted to be natural and not overthought.
In hopes of raising positive awareness we made a little documentary that we would like to share with you. Please have a look at it and share it, it's our own thoughts and efforts which have not been sponsored!
If you wish to get involved, all the details are in the description of video.