One of the organisations we support in the Calais refugee camp is The Refugee Youth Service (formerly Baloo’s). The Youth Service provides a safe place for boys aged 12 – 18 to relax, play and learn while they live in the camp. The team sent this update about their plans in the aftermath of the demolition including branching out to Dunkirk.
This week’s activities and outings revolved around the weather, as the 20+ degree heat made it ideal for trips to the beach. On Sunday 8th, we took five boys from the Jungle to the seaside where we spent a day playing volleyball in the sea, making sandcastles and one boy even designing a replica of his home in Afghanistan (as pictured below). The boys rarely leave the Jungle for any other reason than to ‘try’, and so the chance to get out of the camp and relax was extremely refreshing for them. The quiet French beach came to life with the sound of laughing boys having water fights in the sea!
On Friday 6th, we also took three boys to the beach to play beach football (as seen below). These boys no longer live in the Jungle as they have decided to settle in France and so are now living in an accommodation centre. This is an extremely difficult time for them as they miss their families as well as the community and their friends that speak their own language back in the Jungle. It is an incredibly courageous decision that they have made and we as a Youth Service support them by visiting them at least once a week to help them through this challenging transition.
On Friday 6th we also begun the first of many day visits to St Omer which is run by France Terre d’Asile. The aim of these day visits is to let the boys see the centre for themselves without the obligation of staying the night. As it is an extremely difficult decision for a child to leave the Jungle for an unknown centre, we hope that these day visits act as a stepping-stone between the boys and FTDA.
We have also returned to visiting Calais General Hospital as one more boy has severely injured himself attempting to cross to England. We plan to go at least twice a week to provide both emotional support as well as a break from the monotony of being bedridden. This week we took one of his friends and some Afghan food from the Jungle to cheer him up.
We have also increased our outreach work inside of the Jungle to accommodate the large number of unaccompanied minors arriving. Alone and exceptionally vulnerable, these children often have no means of contacting home to let their families know that they are safe. We have been working alongside the Facebook group ‘Phone credit for refugees and displaced people’ and this week alone have managed to provide over 30 boys with credit. This would have not been possible without the generosity of strangers who have given over £500 to these children to ensure that they can phone for help when in danger and phone home when lonely.
Finally in relation to the Youth Centre, it has been another successful week with school occurring every day for one hour and a mixture of exciting activities and sports being played throughout the week. The beautiful weather has meant that cricket has been played constantly, and yet the staff keep getting bowled out for golden ducks!
We would not be able to do our work without your support and kindness. Many of the refugees we help are fleeing the conflict zones of Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan. Others are trying to escape political oppression in countries like Eritrea. All are human beings like us. As well as providing immediate physical assistance, we want to help refugees maintain their dignity.
Please click through if you would like to find out more about our work in Calais, Dunkirk, Lesvos, Samos, Idomeni and other locations. If you would like to know how you can help refugees, please check out our Get Involved section where you can find out how to fundraise for us and how to make a donation. Thank you!