A simple conversation led to a mission to make a difference. The idea to go to Calais sprouted from one of my good friends. His neighbour was making the journey to Calais with a car loaded with supplies and donations and we simply questioned the reality of why we couldn't go, also. Calais is not far. Donations are not lacking.
So my friend, Tobias, and I decided, then and there, that we were going to go the next weekend. Another friend from my university, Aisha, joined in and my boyfriend Ashley, too. As we planned and considered the gravity of the situation, we wanted the best plans to be established. We wanted these plans to make a change for the future, not only for a moment.
We had a plan but no contacts, no idea what to expect. Aisha met a Doctor who had just returned from Calais and was able to provide contact details for a guy out there who could help us.
I was scared to drive in France. Clive, another friend, wanted to be a part of this mission and asked if he could come. Without me asking he offered to drive and even brought an extra vehicle: A VAN!! Clive's dad drove the van for us and brought his French-speaking skills to our aid many times.
Just before leaving on the Friday, I believe we sensed within us the scale of this mission. A lot of things almost fell apart. We almost forgot our passports, we almost missed our train across the channel, we almost had no where to sleep in Calais. There were a lot of situations where we almost didn't make it through but, every time, it worked out.
The first day we spent the whole day sorting through the donations. Clive and Ashley were able to go into the Jungle (where the refugees stayed), and this allowed them to make a few connections inside so they could return back without having to rely on anyone from the charity. Clive and Ashley were able to buy and provide supplies to some of the people living in the Jungle and later took the rest of us there.
Upon stepping foot in the Jungle… I was lost for words. Even now I find it hard. No one should ever have to live in such an environment. There were so many people, some walking on the streets, some sitting on hills, some by the tents, some by vans and trucks collecting donations. Even though a many lacked proper clothing, shoes, or shelter, the place was never short of a smile. How can you be forced out of your homes, cities, countries, and still smile? Even with their meager provisions, they were always willing to share.
They invited us into their "homes", offered us beverages, and were simply kind to us and each other. Clive met a guy who, when offered a basic food, turned it down and said "I had some this morning give it to a brother who has none."
The next day, Aisha, Tobias, and I worked alongside the charity to help distribute supplies in the Jungle. This experience taught us how to manage a distribution, what to look out for, how to prepare, what to do, and what not to do. Without realising we were being equipped, educated, and prepared for later plans. Already the path was being laid for a more permanent service. Here, Ashley's and Clive's had contacts and friendship in the Jungle, and the rest of us were now able to carry out a distribution smoothly.
Just before leaving the camp, we stumbled upon a group of women who had just arrived from England with a car filled with supplies. We were able to carry out a smooth distribution and also show them how to do it in the future.
There are so many people in need in Calais, France. We must return soon. We shouldn't take too long. No excuse is good enough. They are in need. The need for help isn't on hold while we plan. Let us not sit around waiting, thinking, deciding, considering or doing whatever it is that is stopping us from helping. They did not choose this situation, but we can choose to help them.
We need to act now.
– Natalia Woods