“Welcome to the Jungle.”
Today was our first day in the biggest refugee slum in Europe: the Jungle.
Thousands of residents muddled together from all over the world. Sudan, Afghanistan, Syria, Pakistan, Eritrea, just to name a few.
Imagine living in a muddy tent under cold rain, next to porta-potties. It’s amazing how people with nothing have created something like this makeshift city. Despite the atrocious living conditions & lack of support from the French government, many refugees have managed to build businesses like mini markets & cafes.
Although commonly misconstrued, the refugees are eager to work and do something productive with their time as they wait for asylum or try to cross over to the U.K. They go to French/English classes taught by local residents & volunteers, and they’ve built places to worship for Christians and Muslims alike.
Since the official refugee camps in Calais are mainly for women and children, fathers, brothers, and husbands built up the Jungle in the surrounding areas to be closer to their families.
Because we couldn’t get into the authorized camps, we stayed in the Jungle and mostly spoke with men.
We met a lot of people today and were overwhelmed by the gravity of the situation. Lots of things going on at the same time. Lots of languages being spoken everywhere. Lots of tents. Lots of mud. Lots of smells. Lots of new stories. Lots of questions.
Glad we made a friend at an information point within the slum that we can hang with for the next week to show us around and introduce us to people.
It was hard to see fellow humans living like animals. We can’t believe the kindness that we’ve been shown just on our first day. One of the refugees graciously opened his shelter and made us some tea.
We can’t un-see the horrific conditions that people live in for months. We were only there for five hours today, but it felt way longer.