Day off yesterday. It was really nice. All of us are a bit skint at the moment so we decided to go and culture ourselves by going to the beaches of Dunkirk to learn about what happened there in the war. It's still the tail end of storm Doris, so there winds were huge and the flying sand stung our faces, but it was good fun, if bracing. It's weird being in this one town that has so much sad history, be it past or current. I felt myself imagining what it must have been like to be a young man in Dunkirk with the Nazi forces surrounding me on all sides the only hope of getting out by relying on the kindness and courage of strangers to help. Then skip forward to today, where again we have 1000's of people trapped with little or no hope of getting out, but this time rather than sending help in their hour of need, the powers are ignoring them in the hope that they will just somehow magically disappear. It was/is a very sad and sobering experience.
I've always known that I have come from a privileged background, a stable home, food on the table, loving parents, education etc. It's only by doing this that I've realized just how privileged my life has been. Sure there have been rough times, I've slept rough before, I've skipped meals when I didn't have enough cash for them, but there was always a light at the end, and I knew ultimately that things would sort themselves out. I can't quite fathom what it must be like to live not knowing, just trapped in this limbo hell. Even when compared to the other volunteers I have it so much better. We have been doing more safety briefings, and hearing about the experiences of other girl volunteers can be harrowing. I've talked before about how sexual violence is a real problem in camp, but only through speaking to some of my female colleagues am I now starting to get a bit more perspective on it. Most won't use the toilets in camp, for fear that the mafia have keys and it would be easy for them to break into a cubicle when someone was in there, but even going beyond that their days are so much more draining than that of the men. There is a perception that if you were to marry an English women you would get instant access to the UK, that coupled with the fact many of them are quite young, and also very pretty, means they get hit on constantly. It's hard to think about it as there are two sides to the story, one is that if you were a young man, trapped, and you believed that maybe you could charm your way out of that situation, would you not try too? The other though is the fact that it is totally inappropriate. I think most of the girls get why it happens, and from what I have seen handle it amazingly. Some choose to wear a ring on their wedding finger and say they are already hitched, others use fake names on facebook to try and safeguard against someone in camp coming across them there, it must be so draining.
Ok onto some happier news. Yesterday I decided to actually put some effort into spreading this blog about and got some nice feedback, both on Reddit and Facebook. I was also contacted by some people who have a bit of spare time and wanted to come out and help, which was amazing.
If you're reading this and want to get involved here are some ways you can. First of all if you have time, it's really easy. Go to the Refugee Community Kitchen or Help Refugees websites, fill out a small form that will take about 5 minutes, arrange a date, and come over. It really is that simple! That could be for a weekend, week, month or longer, it's up to you.
If you don't have time to offer then we need stuff. One of the biggest needs is shoes, all sizes but specifically mens size Europe 42. All the guys seem to have the same size feet, to the point where it's a running joke in the warehouse about how everyone is size 42, and now quite a lot of staff now have 42 tattooed on one of their feet. Sadly they just don't have enough to supply camp, so seeing residents with flip flops or shoes with the backs cut off is a regular thing. Other big needs are sleeping bags, socks and mens small/medium clothing. There are collection points in most cities, so if you have stuff that is decent quality please send it on. Likewise with food, we do rice and curry every day, if you have items that would go into these, spices, salt, rice or drinks items like tea, hot chocolate, coffee etc, then please box them up and send them over.
The other thing is money. If you can spare some you can donate directly to either charity via their websites or fund a volunteers stay out here.
The final, and most important thing is your voice. We are a temporary solution to a growing problem, more of a plaster on the wound than a cure. Write to your MP, get friends involved and put pressure on the powers that be to do something, it's the only way the problem will get fixed at it's root cause.
Cheers for reading
P.S: look mum, an entire post with no swearing ;-)