My friend the actor Leila Crerar and her friend Nicky have been volunteering at ‘Good Chance Theatre‘, a temporary theatre space which has been set up in the Jungle, the refugee camp in Calais. Globe to Globe recently put on Hamlet.
As they were going anyway, they thought why waste the journey? Why not try and take with them what was most needed? There are many kitchens being run by volunteers in the camp, which are providing 2500 hot meals everyday. They thought about all the people they knew who have felt angry at the lack of support by the authorities who are turning a blind eye to the suffering of thousands of people across Europe. In Calais alone – only 100 miles from London – there are 6000 people living in terrible conditions. Their thinking was that there are a lot of people who feel passionately about helping, so why not all get together and do something?
Leila set up a crowd funding page asking people to donate money towards the cost of hiring a van, and filling it with food.
They raised over £2000 very quickly, they found a van, and bought food. Here is Leila at Asda being assisted to load produce into the van.
The van loaded they set off – and here is the first letter that Leila sent back.
Letter number 1
We all did it, we made it happen! Thank you so much for making this possible!
Yesterday we dropped a van loaded with £2000 worth of dried fruit, tins, oil, pulses, fresh fruit and veg, and much more. It took quite a bit to unload. There were loads of volunteers helping us at the warehouse in Calais. They had a small hand operated fork lift, which broke as we carried the stuff in. An Irish women, volunteering with her elderly mother, turned round, smiled and said, “everything is broken here.” But the sun was shinning and the volunteers were hiving inside the warehouse, stacking, peeling, carrying, and greeting. A stereo blasted out the little Mermaid ‘I Wanna Be Where The People Are’, it felt surreal. Some of these volunteers have been here for over six-months.
The Saturday before we arrived we got an email from Good Chance Theatre, informing us about the new developments in the camp. The French authorities are evicting the theatre, along with everyone in the south side of the camp. They have a week to move before they will bulldoze the area. This part of the camp is he the cultural hub. The Theatre, the Library, the Women and Children’s Centre, and the Youth Centre will all be destroyed. Yesterday a long time volunteer told us, “It is no coincidence they are choosing this part of the camp, they want to make it unbearable for people to live in the Jungle.” Good Chance emailed us to say that tensions were rising in the camp and that sadly they would have to cancel us coming and doing workshops for safety reasons.
But we are here, so after the food drop we offered our services to the awesome Hattie in the warehouse. She sent us out to litter pick, which certainly felt more humbling than doing anything else. Walking inside the camp felt even more surreal, the sun was shining and a muddy Glastonbury would have come to mind, if it weren’t for the 20-foot barbed wire fences. The first thing that struck us was how everyone living in the camp had adapted to these dire circumstances. Shops, restaurants, and wooden shacks lined a main drag way. Lots of people greeted us and wanted to talk. We spend the afternoon with an 17year old called Fahad from Kuwait. He showed us to one of the make shift restaurants inside the camp. We bought him Lunch, and always with a smile on his face, he told us his story. We felt a bit guilty when we returned with our jiffy bags empty of rubbish, but some how meeting Jarah felt more important.
The van will prove very useful here, we are just back from the Supermarket where we bought a fresh supply of fruit and veg for the morning.
With the money raised:
£2000 Van full of food.
£500 Van and Travel
£630 Still to spend on fruit and veg runs. With the remainder we have decided to wait and see where we think this money should go. It may well be the fruit and veg runs, but once we have been here longer hopefully we will see where this money is most needed.
Thank you so much everyone for making this happen. We will be keeping the funding open. We will stop bothering you with our long emails now. When I get a chance I (Leila) will write a blog, which you can read if you like, or not. Either way you are awesome.
xxxxLeila and Nicky.
I know we said we would give you a rest from our emails, but there is an emergency, and we could really do with all your help. Not more money this time, just a signature!
The last two days in the Calais Camp we have spent helping, among others, Liz Glegg in the ‘Jungle’ Children’s Centre, an incredible women who has made a safe warm environment for the 400 children in the camp. 200 of these are unaccompanied minors. With the rest of the money you raised we bought cooking gas, and drove around the camp, making sure the canisters were delivered straight to these children’s tents. The ‘Lost Boys’ from Peter Pan is what stuck in my mind. They were cheeky naughty hilarious little kids. When they weren’t giggling and causing mischief, you caught a glimpse of unspeakable horror in their eyes. No child should know such an expression of loss. When we returned to our hostel that night, “haunted” is what we both said we felt.
The Children’s Centre is going to be bulldozed by the French authorities this Monday 22nd, unless we all show our government, that they must take action. Some of these unaccompanied children could disappear. Liz has linked some of the lone children, up with Lawyers but they have little English, and the only contact she has with them is a phone number, if they lose their phones there would be no way of finding them again. And the only place they know to go as a safe haven will have been destroyed.
Please help by signing this partition calling on our government to take action.
Some major celebrities have got behind the cause, and Natalie Bennett was in the camp yesterday, but this is also about numbers.
SIGN AND SHARE: http://www.refugees-welcome.org.uk/childrenofcalais/
xxxxLeila and Nicky.
We are still getting people donating, and asking about our fundraising page, we are keeping our funding open, so we can return and keep finding ways to directly help people like Liz. So keep sharing you wonderful folks!!