“Taking care of children has nothing to do with politics. I think perhaps with time, instead of there being a politicization of humanitarian aid, there will be a humanization of politics.” – Audrey Hepburn
I grew up in England in an average working class home. Nothing about my life is especially extraordinary but equally the memories and moments that I have accumulated I consider nothing short of blessings and gifts. I grew up in a loving family, with a roof over my head and enough food. Each day, whether I liked it or not at the time, I had the privilege of going to school, doing my homework and working on projects. For an ordinary girl that grew up in the UK, I was privelaged: I grew up with things that many people today grow up without. While many (including myself) are fighting to progress into a strong career and a comfortable future, others are simply fighting for a right to live – this is not okay!
I remember the moment when I first heard about the refugee crisis. It was 2015, my second year of university, when the news flew across our TV screens. The news reported that the Euro tunnel operator Channel Tunnel had intercepted 37,000 migrants who were attempting to travel to the UK to seek refuge.
37,000 human beings!
I really wanted to get involved and help in any way that I could but the reality was that I was in the middle of exams and preparing for a year abroad -there was no way that I could travel as I had to save, so I signed petitions and sent what I could.
Naively I expected the situation to improve, but it only seemed to get worse.
Three years later in 2017, my sister and I travelled to Calais to do what we could to help. I don’t know what we were expecting but we were shocked to learn about what was happening.
Our first day volunteering with help refugees was busy and exhausting but worth it. We were working in a warehouse providing food and clothing to refugees and migrants. We were set to work in the kitchens and remained there for the duration of our time. It was a tiring but rewarding process and we enjoyed everything that we were doing.
Each day we would hear stories from volunteers who went to deliver the food, stories that shocked us! Each day we heard new stories of French Police who abused and harassed migrants. The police would tear down and destroy tents and fire tear gas at the migrants every day.
I ended up going on a distribution trip on our last evening in Calais. A group of five girls loaded food into a van and drove off to two delivery locations in Calais, one near to the warehouse and one further away in the Calais Jungle that had been closed down. Despite it being closed down, men and some women still congregated there.
There was one man, Mohammad, from Libya who stood at a distance. His eyes were filled with hope and his mind seemed cheerful despite everything that was happening. He walked over and took a plate of food. We began talking in English and Arabic, as if we were old friends; as if there were no differences between us, as if the both of us were simply human beings.
The truth was we were labelled very different. To some of society Mohammad was a pain, a nuisance, annoying, a failure and a representation of what war and turmoil can cause: a migrant. To that same society I was considered a humanitarian and a kind hearted citizen especially for going out of my way to do such a good deed: for ensuring that human beings received one warm meal a day and a warm coat.
Yet there was Mohammad, a former school teacher, talking to me about my future degree and career choice, talking to me about Arabic Literature and Language, talking to me about economics and history. Someone who made sure his friends had enough food even though it meant him going without. Someone who took the time to advise me on my future while he was waiting to receive asylum anywhere.
I will remember Mohammad, forever.
I want to be able to tell you that the situation is improving and that migrants are finding homes and security. I want to be able to tell you that the French government are doing all that they can to create realistic solutions- but, unfortunately, they are doing the opposite.
French police have been doing their best to eliminate the ‘problem of migrants’ and their methods have been questionable. From tearing down tents and taking food to firing tear gas at volunteers who are trying to provide food, the number of problems are mounting.
To find out more information and to learn more about the needs in Calais and Dunkirk, please view the following websites: