Sitting down to write this after my first six weeks in Camp in Calais, I can’t help but think that it hasn’t exactly been what I’d call a normal half term. The time has expanded so that it feels as if I’ve never lived or worked anywhere else but also feels like it has passed in the blink of an eye. Where do I even start? Thinking about this, what keeps coming to mind is the connections that have been made over the past 7 weeks and the moments of humanity I have witnessed and been a part of. I arrived at the beginning of September when the gorgeous weather was lulling me into a false sense of security as to what was yet to come. That first evening Kate took me to L’École de Darfour. I was overwhelmed by the hospitality and generosity of the people there. I felt then, and still feel at some point every single day, incredibly privileged to have been welcomed by this fantastic community of humans.
The bus has been such a hit! I’ve been incredibly lucky to have found a plethora of talented, caring people –both volunteers and residents of camp – to staff the bus. Meaning that we have been able to put on all sorts of teaching and learning activities, all of which have introduced new language in either French or English as well as new skills and distraction from the everyday. We’ve had cooking lessons; cultural activities; juggling and circus skills; first aid workshops; bike workshops; art and art therapy; music and radio workshops and board game sessions. All of them have brought smiles, laughter and an exchange of learning. This is one of my favourite things about working on the bus: for each thing that I have taught, I have learnt two more; really useful Arabic words like problem and teddy bear; how to (or attempt to) use a guitar as a drum; that everyone and anyone can access something on their own level and that smiling, laughing and finding joy in the small things sometimes is the only way. Thank you so much to everyone who has volunteered with us, there are too many of you to name individually but every single one of you made a difference to that person in front of you in that moment.
A few weeks ago, somebody thanked me for giving them a space in which they could ‘feel human’ and his friend nodded at his side. Again, that feeling of privilege. Now as I write, those wonderful humans are queuing up for what to them is so much more than a bus; it’s their chance to a new and different life. Currently, we don’t know where the next half term will take us but wherever we end up, we’re committed to providing more learning moments, more friendship building and most of all more human moments for all of these people who have taught us so much.
To any of the camp residents reading this blog, a huge huge thank you for filling the bus with your laughter, conversation, music, stories and brilliance. I hope we will meet again.