One of our newest PLAY 4 CALAIS volunteers, Jack Hawkins, wrote this stunning piece after his trip to The Jungle on Sunday 6th March. Thank you for letting us share it Jack.
"Today I saw children with nothing, no more than the ill-fitting clothes they picked at, shielded by desperate parents collecting anything they could find to make shelter, to make fire, to dig cars out of foot deep crevices of mud. I talked to a man who had been in transit for six years, has spent one year in The Jungle (his brother lives in Southampton with a wife and a child); I saw parents desperate to clothe their cold, scared children, to find shoes that fitted, to get gloves, tights, scarves and hats for them; I saw men joyfully singing as they made do with the so little they have.
I saw despair, humility, pride — communities blossoming out of the less than nothingness of the ground underfoot — I saw so many smiles; so many more than I’ll see when I commute to work this week.
I heard stories of young men so traumatised by the losses they’ve suffered, the horrors they’ve seen, the humiliation, harassment, lack of love, that violence for them is little more than play: a game to set a home on fire, family inside.
I saw so many smiles, so much warmth in the face of so much cold. Where is our compassion, care, respect?
Tonight I came home to my flat, with power, and warmth and a fridge full of food; I came back past police I trust, security I can rely on, enjoying the freedom so many people want, will walk across a continent — children will walk from Afghanistan to the northern French coast (I still haven’t fully absorbed this)— because they want to come here, to live here, like we do, like we are so privileged to do.
They have nothing, and we can help them, with donations to provide food, clothing, humanitarian essentials, all badly needed right now. We can see past the political terminology of ‘refugees’ and see The Jungle as a city of people, a community of educated, intelligent, artistic, creative people who need respite care: entertainment, such as through the great work of Play 4 Calais that takes a pop-up cinema to the camps, and toys, art supplies, paper, writing instruments, books, sports equipment.
Above all we can keep talking about how this has come to pass, that thousands of vulnerable, desperate people, who want no more than what we get as a birthright — want to make a life for themselves and their children, to contribute and live and help their children grow, and play, and learn and one day love.
That’s the word that stood out the most, in the dirt, the now scorched remnants of the recently destroyed sections of the camp, scrawled on walls, painted on the side of caravans, tents, canvases: love."