Christ Church in the Calais Jungle

#ITooAmHuman

Our documentary: www.vimeo.com/191739937

Earlier this year I was proud to co-ordinate an initiative to volunteer in the Calais “Jungle” camp. Fifteen of us from Christ Church took part, a motley group of incumbent second years, recent graduates, two post-grads and our beloved college chaplain, Clare Hayns. We had a lively first meeting in May (organised by Clare) and remained committed to the project from that point on, attracting further eager participants in the months that followed.

In September we spent a fortnight in the largest distribution warehouse in Calais, which continues to serve refugees in northern France today despite the camp’s recent eviction. It is run jointly by the charities Help Refugees (www.helprefugees.org.uk/) and L’Auberge des Migrants (www.laubergedesmigrants.fr/), and their sophisticated grass-roots operation puts each available pair of hands to use. We felt that every minute of our time counted, whether we were chopping firewood, preparing food parcels, making “welcome packs” of bedding and toiletries, erecting tents, or venturing into camp to teach English at “Jungle Books”, a makeshift school.

I was able to return to Calais in early October, and much had changed in three weeks. The eviction had gone from a latent rumour to a daunting reality, and many of the teams we worked with had been disbanded and their members assembled into a single unit who spread information and attended to the needs of the most vulnerable. I myself was able to reconnect with friends our group had made the previous month and offer them reassurance and some warm clothes as the weather grew cooler. They are all safe today in and around France, although unsure what their future holds.

Our endeavour was made possible by the combined efforts of many individuals. First and foremost, those who gave their time: Ali Hussain, Alice Freeman, Becca Conway-Jones, Bruno Ligas-Rucinski, Charlie Fraser, Clare Hayns, Katherine Sayer, Jamie Wilkins, Joseph Cordery, Joshua Hillis, Juliette Aliker, Morag Davies, Rory England and Victor Lacoin. The Dean and college provided a very generous grant which covered our expenses, and donations from friends and family enabled us to donate over £3,000 to the warehouse and to Calais Kitchens (http://www.calaiskitchens.net/). This provided sleeping bags for nearly one hundred camp residents, as well as a week’s supply of onions and rare treats of coffee and biscuits.

On October 27th, our group reconvened in the Blue Boar Lecture Theatre to give a presentation and screen a short documentary film we made about our experience in Calais. It was a fantastic event and I was happy to speak with a number of first years who are eager to promote similar initiatives, even though the “Jungle” as we knew it is now gone. We hope many members of Christ Church and the University will be inspired to action. The three of us who graduated this year are now actively involved in refugee support both professionally and through further volunteering efforts, and I can say with certainty that the trip changed the lives of everyone who took part.

Lily Slater, English Literature graduate (2016)
For more information, please contact me through the Alumni & Development Office or via post at Christ Church, c/o Clare Hayns.