My Week so far…

It’s getting colder as the winter draws in. Have you put your heating on yet? I’ve had to as well …

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© Krumal Padhiar

Unfortunately the only way to keep warm, also means a lot of our shelters end up burning down … along with all our possessions.

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© Caroline Gregory – Jungle Camp – Calais

I suppose when that happens to you, ambulances come along with the fire engines to put out the fires and to help you with your injuries? We have a bit of a different reaction to our needs here in the camp, volunteers have to carry screaming people with serious burns across dodgy terrain in the middle of the night because the police are blocking ambulances. The noises and screams of my neighbours haunt me, even in my waking state.

I know you may think we are silly to risk our live’s like this but, I would have said the same when I was warm and safe at home in my house. But these days we have to choose between freezing to death or risking death by fire as we try and keep our children as warm as we can. There have been many child born in the Jungle since I arrived. I fear for their futures, their hopes and their lives. This is no place for children… what can I do?

‘My wife just gave birth to our child in the jungle, she’s two weeks old”, he smiles

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© Krumal Padhiar

I bet it’s great to come home at the end of your work day and cook something nice to eat or perhaps you don’t fancy cooking today – get a takeaway instead? We have a few kitchens that help us with our ONE meal a day. The wonderful One Spirit Ashram Kitchen in the Calais Jungle helps us. We have to wait patiently in the rain, wind and cold to queue up for our one serving a day – that is our takeaway – everyday.

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Unfortunately they only have enough funds to feed us a few times a day. But we are grateful. The hunger pains in my stomach are terrible some days.  I can cope, but watching my children cry from being so hungry freezes me with terror as I have no idea how long they can go on like this in the cold as the winter takes hold.

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© Krumal Padhiar

The thing I loved most when I was at home, was to have a long soak in the bath. Especially at the end of the working day. I bet you like that too? Washing away all the tension and stress.

“Garbage is rotting and spreading like a plague, though we stand in pride, drink and wash ourselves under these cold taps even when it is not clean for consumption”

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© Krumal Padhiar

It’s slightly different now … we have a few taps in the Jungle. Although a  recent environmental health assessment carried out by the University of Birmingham – Arshad Isakjee, Surindar Dhesi, Thom Davies recorded …

“The piped water from the tap nearest to the Jules Ferry Centre had E coli and Coliform bacteria present above safe standards, based on European Commission Regulation (EC) 2073/2005 on microbiological criteria for foodstuff. These bacteria are indicative of faecal contamination”.

I know it’s been really windy too, have you managed to wrap up warm? It’s a little tricky to keep our shelters on the ground, or indeed out of the water…

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above and this image © Chloe Le Fay and Rae

Life in the jungle is hard, I won’t lie. It is an incredible challenge every day, feeling like I am somehow not human anymore. That somehow I have become invisible to the world. The volunteers and aid agencies help us meet our very, very basic needs, where they can. But there are many of us, we are still here and have no other way to provide for ourselves the way we did at home. I had my own business there, it was good. Life was good before the war, a war that we did not choose.

I ran from home, leaving all my possessions and my comforts behind, fleeing from a war that is not mine. So that I could be safe, so that I could keep my family safe and give them hope for a better future. But now we have become people’s fear. The media tell them so. Tell’s them that my children and I are bad, but we are just human like you. We are afraid too. Afraid of what will be, when this nightmare will end and we can be safe again.

I remember when I first came to the camp in Calais, I was so traumatised from the journey I was frightened to enter the camp with my children. I thought that would pass and we would eventually find a safe home. I think when you have a time when you cannot cope you see the Dr and maybe a therapist too, no? It helps to be able to talk or find a way to process your emotions, I am told art helps …

 

Excepts and images with thanks to
Caroline Gregory
Krunal Padhiar
Chloe La Fay and Rae

Please help us help others. It’s not often you get something in return for your donations is it? Not a problem if you don’t want to buy anything, you can still donate. Thank you.

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Unity not Divison

Forgive me for being away but, like many of you I am still trying to digest the tragic events of last week. Not only in Paris but in Beirut. It has my thoughts reflecting on the numerous senseless acts of terror committed around the world and the needless loss of innocent lives.

Friday the 13th started as one of the best days so far since I have been fund-raising for the refugees in Calais. One of my wonderful contacts in Agricola Farmosa  arranged a donation 22 tons of melons to be delivered to the residents in the camp in Calais. A company that makes a loss on many of their lorry loads of fresh produce as desperate people try to flee the camp boarding their lorries, headed for England in the pursuit of a more stable life for their families. Even after this Agricola Farmosa showed compassion and spent approx £9,800 transporting the melons to the camp. ‘ Why’? I hear you ask…

… So, they could bring much needed happiness to the camp. Understanding the plight of many of the families in the camp they extended a hand of kindness, as many of the residents have not had any fresh fruit for months.

When we opened the doors with the Melons there was a sharp intake of breath and lots of smiles and no one left the queue, the queue’s just got longer and longer and we had to tell people what time we would be back to ensure those that missed out were served by the next van. Now when I walk through the Camp the Refugees come up to me and say “Melons, Melons!”
The benefit of these Melons is hard to describe. Firstly, these people need urgently fresh fruit and vegetables they live on a fairly basic diet and feeding them is a big problem. The biggest benefits of the Melons where  that they were different and just for a short while gave so much pleasure, sometimes all we can deliver is the ability to make that day a better day. – John Sloan – Calais warehouse manager

The day had been a tremendous success and it was so lovely to see so many happy faces in my FB news feed.

But, by the evening it was another story entirely. I watched in disbelief as the story in Paris unfolded. Sadly, as I have helplessly watched many stories of atrocities unfold  on my screen over the years. A million thoughts raced though my head, just like you I felt a helpless pain for those who had lost family and friends as I frantically texted to find out if my friends where ok.

On this same night a fire ripped through the camp and destroyed over a dozen tents including all contents and possessions.

The last few days have seen a outpouring of love, hate, sadness, overwhelm, anger, frustration, pain, confusion, hurt and fear. Then I saw this heartfelt article in the  FT by Simon Kuper.

But tonight, for the first time, I am asking myself whether we can stay in Paris.

All this may be hysterical. I am writing this on an emotional night. Perhaps in a week or two things will get back to normal, as they did after Charlie Hebdo, and as they did in New York a few months after the attacks of September 11. If so, I might stay in Paris for another 13 years. But I am pessimistic. I fear that fear and danger might become the new normal here.

I do not know how to tell my children this. They love Paris. They consider themselves Parisians. They have never lived anywhere else, and have repeatedly told us we are not allowed to move. But I cannot pretend to them that everything is fine. – Simon Kuper – FT

He spoke the words we are all feeling about FEAR. Fear of … will it be us next? Who can I trust? Where are we safe? Then, it suddenly struck me…these are the very same thoughts that had the innocent people of Syria fleeing with their families for their lives. In their country these acts of violence have become the norm. Fearing for their families they had to make the decision to take what they could carry and take their perilous journeys to safer shores. Many not making it or even loosing their entire families to the sea in the process.

At times like this it seems impossible to know what to do and who to help and if you are helping the right person or people. I got asked that very question today. “Nina, how do you know that you are helping the right people?” My answer “I can only do what I can from my heart and if the kindness reaches the people it was meant for, then that is all I can ask“.

That is all I give to each of you … kindness from the heart. If you like me can see that the refugee’s are not the one’s we should fear – they need our help, then please do what you can to reach out. Go the extra mile…one random act of kindness is all it takes.

Thank you for taking the time to read this post.

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* M E L O N S *

I wanted to share some happy news with you all today, as some thing you may not know is that as well holding down a full time job and trying to raise as much as we can in funds and awareness for the refugee crisis unfolding in Europe, I also try and find more immediate ways to help the people in the camps in Calais. Over the last few months I have connected and followed the amazing work that is happening on the ground – all undertaken by volunteers! It has inspired me to keep looking for other ways to help.

As a result of being connected to some wonderful, kind, generous, compassionate people, a shipment of 22 tons of watermelon arrived in Calais today! The amazingly generous fruit company Agricola Famosa originally based in Brazil, but also with offices in the UK – donated the fresh fruit and organised the shipment all as a donation – totalling an approximate £9,800! WOW!

Agriola Famosa list their values as Integrity * Respect * Opportunity * Responsibility. They continue to live up to all those values and inspire others as the donations of the melons arrived in Calais today.

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© John Sloan – volunteer warehouse manager – Calais
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© John Sloan – volunteer warehouse manager – Calais
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© John Sloan – volunteer warehouse manager – Calais

Carlo Porro, Managing Director, Agricola Famosa.10339757_10205031583693244_6757415355711857154_n

“At Agricola Famosa we follow our slogan to the heart “Fruits for a better life” and in the same way that we bring hope and opportunities to the poorest regions in Brazil, we hope, with this donation, to bring some much needed joy, to the families and children suffering in Calais.”

Sue Bhudia, UK Commercial Manager, Agricola Famosa

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“It has been an eye opener to see the amount of families and children in real need of a lifeline. To see a much needed smile on a child’s face with a simple watermelon donation it’s really humbling and heart warming.

We hope to raise awareness within our industry and put a positive spin on what has been so far a warzone for the fresh produce industry.

We truly hope that this will be the first of many much needed donations to come in the future from within our industry“

With this amazing donation of approx 14,000 melons it means that many men, women and children are receiving fresh fruit, roughly working out at 2 melons per person! Some thing the refugee’s have not had in months.

John S, the volunteer warehouse manager co-ordinated the shipment with Agricola Famosa in Calais and is currently distributing the fruit as I write this blog piece. He and his team of volunteers work tirelessly organising and distributing the donations.

Show your support where ever possible. This situation is not about to go away and as the winter approaches it is clear the outlook is bleak for the people living in the “Jungle”. Be inspired by the things that can be achieved when people work together. You may be tired of hearing about the refugees in Calais – but imagine what it must feel like to live there every day. Be the hope that someone needs. Buy some art, buy a raffle ticket. Contact others in your circle to reach out and help in other ways.

Let’s be the difference in someone else’s life.

Real News

Take a look at these faces. Does your 15 year old look at you with eyes that are so tired, eyes, that feel so hopeless, tired  and afraid? Help us help them. Buy our art, make a bid on our FB page. The money we raise goes directly to Art Refuge UK – providing therapy and Human Relief Foundation – providing aid and shelter.

Aid groups have reported a surge in the numbers of unaccompanied refugee children living in tents in Calais with no support from the French state. In interviews with the Guardian, children travelling alone from Syria and Eritrea spoke of repeated incidents of harsh treatment meted out by French police.

Several described homesickness and a desire to return to the war-torn countries from which they had fled. Others said they had been hit by the police, sprayed with teargas and chased by dogs as they tried to walk towards the entrance to the Channel tunnel to attempt to claim asylum in the UK. –  in Calais for the Guardian – read more here

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Ala, 15, from Daraa, Syria. Photograph: David Levene for the Guardian
Firas, 15, from Syria, at the refugee camp in Calais. Photograph: David Levene for the Guardian
Firas, 15, from Syria, at the refugee camp in Calais. Photograph: David Levene for the Guardian

“I worry about the younger boys,” he said. “You see the situation. We have nothing.” His friend Ahamed, 15, said he was homesick and wished he could make contact with his family. Like most of the Eritrean teenagers, he has no mobile phone.

Two Billion Miles: Take the journey

Channel 4 have created an incredible interactive video – see it here. Follow the footsteps of so many refugees. But, you make the choices yourself. Decide where you will go next as you carry your tired and hungry child/ren. Decide how best to walk to the the next point as you support your exhausted heavily pregnant wife who hasn’t slept or eaten in days. Try to keep yourself and your children safe as you flee without your husband/partner because they where killed.

I invite you to take a moment and travel the two billion miles that the refugee’s have travelled this year, then tell me why we shouldn’t keep going with ArtWorksForAid. Every penny we raise goes to the charities Art Refuge UK and Human Relief Foundation. We have just under a month to raise as much as we can with the Auctions, Affordable Art and Art Sales. Make a bid, buy the art… how often do you get something beautiful to hang on your wall after donating your money?

Lets’s keep going!

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