First experience in the Jungle of Calais

We get up, and feel the tension already. Today we will finally enter the premises of the camp. First we meet a lovely volunteer couple, Ted & Jay, from England. We meet at a camper parking location near the ferries. We talk about Fortress Europe, the situation in the camp and the big shoe distribution. After our quick chat we follow their camper to a volunteer rendezvous point near the Jungle. We meet some other volunteers and after a while the shoe truck arrives. We quickly divide the shoes in to two separate trucks. Briefly we get clear instructions about distribution and what to do when shit hits the fan.

Once ready we get in the back of the van with all canvas sheets down. It feels like getting blindfolded. Trough some holes we can see the first camp signs. At that moment we are aware of hands trying to get into the truck to check out the cargo. The adrenaline is pumping! The truck stops, and we are allowed to get out from underneath the canvas sheets. Boom! There we are. People are gathering from all around, we smell burned plastic, we hear foreign languages but also music. It immediately feels like a third world country, only it’s not. Then it starts! ‘One line, one line!’ the volunteers keep shouting, in a friendly way. It’s important to be nice at all times. In no time the queue is longer than the eye can see. With four people we try to protect the truck, since not everyone is willing to wait. It’s a big hassle getting the right size and the right shoe for everyone. You feel the energy around the distribution go up and down. We try to keep calm and be nice and keep everything organised the best we can.

After five hours straight we are totally exhausted. We need to go home, but decide to quickly visit a part of the camp. We are invited in a small restaurant where two Syrians offer us to join their meal. It’s delicious and we try to make some proper contact. The two guys have been living around 2 and 3 weeks in the camp and they invite us to their tents later on. We finish our meal and walk a bit more. On the main street we meet two girls from Eritrea and once again we are being invited to their tents. The conditions are bad; sleeping on pallets, no warm clothing and not much food. We take notes and hope to be able to bring some stuff personally in the next days. We leave and see the two Syrians again heading off to the tents. With three other people we enter a small tent, suitable for one person. They want to know if Wendy is married, and try to propose to get a one way ticket to the Netherlands. They ask if they can join us to Amsterdam and at the same time we are offered a Snickers bar. We feel sad that we can’t really help these people. We take a 20 minute walk back to our van. Just as we leave, we notice a man making the same distance back to the camp, only with a broken leg. We decide to give him a ride back to the camp and a backpack filled with food and drinks.

Once back home it feels unreal! It takes time to get back into our own lives again. Later that night Samantha and I are discussing the best way to distribute. It’s gonna be a big challenge!

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