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December 27th 2016 – January 8th 2016
Our last mission in France was rather short because of the big amount of other volunteers during Christmas season, it was still effective though. Because of your donations and the big support from happy.thankyou.moreplease we were able to pack the full car and trailer. We started the trip on the 27th and could luckily make a stop in Luxemburg with Leslie, thank you!
When we arrived at the camp on the 28th Laura, one of the coordinators of the camp gave us a little tour. The camp was cold, wet, dirty and very big (with around 1000 people living there at the moment). At the entrance there is a big phone charging area where the people spend a lot of time. They built little fireplaces in order to stay at least a little warm. There are no heaters in the cabins nor in the whole camp and it is very cold in France at the moment. After showing us around, Laura asked us to help in the kitchen. Supermarkets donate a lot of food at the end of the day and the kitchen team needed help sorting out bad litchis. Volunteers in the kitchen told us about a raid of the police the night before we arrived which explained the gloomy mood we could feel in the camp.
It is really hard to experience the situation in the camp without being able to make a big change. Thankfully there were many volunteers, we were really amazed to see how many people wanted to help. Because of the big amount of volunteers there was no more help needed in the womens centre where we originally planned to work. The womens centre offers room for the women to chat, cook and get hygiene products they desperately need. There is a free shop handing out babywipes, diapers, deodorants, lip balm, candles, and most notably adult diapers. The women are scared to go to the toilet during the night. It gets dark around 5 pm until 7 am and since there are almost no lights in the camp they asked for adult diapers so they wouldn’t have to leave their cabins during the night. We decided to bring in new supplies and bought about 400 adult diapers, toilet paper, deodorants and other stuff the free shop was almost out of.
Afterwards we spent two days in the Salam warehouse where they collect all the donations. Thankfully people bring clothes there every other day and the team was in need of helping hands. We sorted and shelved the clothes, shoes, toys, hygiene products and blankets and had a lot of fun. The direct distribution in the camp is not allowed because a special team is responsible. In a two week period they walk from door to door and ask what the people need. Then they come to the warehouse and get all the stuff to bring it to the camp and distribute it directly to each person.
On our way home we stopped in Compiegne for two days to visit Khaled and his daughter Rama, a family from Syria we met in Camp Drama in Greece last summer. Together with another family from Camp Drama they are now living in council flats in Compiegne not far from Paris. Rama goes to school and gets better in French every day. We took them to Paris for a day and had a lot of fun sightseeing. They were very excited to see the Eiffel tower and we took lots of pictures. Leaving them was bittersweet but when they told us they would receive a positive decision on their asylum application in one week it was easier for us to start our journey back home. It is good to finally see some progress and we hope to visit them again soon!
Babsi & Sas