During the summer of 2016, I spent a couple of weeks in Calais, volunteering in the refugee camp that was more commonly referred to as 'The Jungle'. I met some incredibly resilient people who had hope that they would eventually find asylum in the UK and be able to live safely and comfortably with their families again. But at the same time, there was a distinct awareness that, unless you have good connections or a very large amount of money, it was going to be difficult - just as it would be difficult to continue the career or education you may have left behind.
Meanwhile, life in camp was harsh. Almost everyone lived in tiny camping tents, many of which are not made to stand constant battering by wind and rain, and where we were collecting rubbish from the paths between the tents, dead rats were not uncommon. For food, most refugees have no alternative but to rely on donations from organisations there such as Care4Calais. How long the European 'refugee crisis' will go on for or what the solution is, I have no idea.
Being in The Jungle invited some reflection on the IDP camp I visited when in Kenya with Agape. IDP stands for ‘internally displaced people’ - over 700 families were left homeless in the political violence of the 2007 elections in Kenya. Unable to return home for various reasons, these families are still living in tented camps spread across the central African Rift Valley. It struck me that the people I met, such as the warm family who invited us into their small makeshift home for chai, were refugees too: forced to begin a new life from scratch.
As in Calais, conditions in these camps are far from comfortable and access to food, water and education are very limited. Agape is working with its partner organisation, Marafiki Community International, to provide both short and long-term aid to the camp so that eventually the residents will have the resources to support themselves. Their current project is constructing a small farm in the camp so that the inhabitants will be able to grow their own food.
Just as the refugees in The Jungle need our support, so do those in the Kenyan IDP camp. Join us by signing up to volunteer in Kenya or Maasai-land where you have the chance to participate in outreach trips to the camp, or donate to our IDP Farm Project, which provides medical care, farming support and education to communities living in the camp.
Here at Agape Volunteers we’re sure that many of you are looking forward to leaving 2020 behind. So what are your plans for 2021?
In the meantime, why not keep exploring everything Agape has to offer?Return to Site