When my teacher, friend and fellow shaman, Keith Robinson, first started floating the idea of a trip to Calais to assist the refugees, I wasn’t interested. As the weeks went by and it became clear that no-one else was going to assist him, I became more inclined to step up, but I still had my doubts and reservations.
What difference would we actually make?
Were there not already enough people helping?
Would we be putting ourselves in unnecessary danger? (The media was rife with reports of stabbings, shootings and ISIS activity)
There was also the issue for the Paris attacks, adding fuel to the fire of the general public’s less than friendly attitude towards the refugees. Not a view I shared, but something I was aware of.
My main issue, was that there is plenty of work to do here, right outside my own front door with people that are in need of assistance and healing. I certainly had enough things on my plate at the time.
On hearing Keith’s impassioned and persuasive argument for going, however, I became a reluctant but committed co-pilot.
The organisation and logistics proved to be a task in and of itself and even before we set off from Keith’s house, a lot of work was required. As we made the necessary arrangements my reluctance further moved into a space of unbending intent.
We set off on the six hour journey to Folkstone, and my thoughts turned to the possible scenarios and difficulties we could encounter. At Keith’s suggestion we put these hypothetical scenarios into a thought bubble and systematically worked through all the eventualities. Once done, we erased the bubble, so as not put anything unsavoury out into the collective consciousness.
This is a great tool for dealing with the realisms of life whilst maintaining a clean mind and thought process, that is unmoved by fear and other negative incursions. Thank you Keith.
I’ll go through the ins and outs of our trip briefly, for me the emotions and feelings that came afterwards were the most useful. And from the most surprising source.
Upon arrival in Calais the next day, I was interested to see the signs for Grande Bretagne. It struck me that unlike any other country, someone felt the need to call Britain Great, rather than just Britain. We searched what seemed like the entire coast of Normandy for one of the smaller refugee camps. In our van, we had a range of aid (food, clothes, bedding) that people had donated and a yurt that Keith had magnanimously offered to donate himself.
To our surprise, non of these smaller camps materialised and we could not after three hours of driving find any sign of refugees, from Dunkirk to Sangatte. From newspaper articles we expected to find them dotted everywhere.
At last we resorted to asking locals and after three or four attempts we eventually found ourselves heading for the jungle or ‘le jungle’. The main refugee camp in Calais.
I should point out that this was our last resort. With only two of us in such a large camp, the possibility of being over run by desperate people became a worry. Not least because we had a yurt to erect that required Keith’s expert knowledge. If the parts were grabbed at and taken by various people, then the structure of the Yurt would not materialise, which would be such a waste. As we rolled past the fence and groups of riot police that lined the road to the camp, we became increasingly aware of this possibility, pulling up by one of the dirt roads that leads into the camp.
A van rolled by, driven by white faces and chased by a stream of male refugees looking to jump on the van and open the back. We retained a low profile seemingly invisible to the group. The van drove off and I informed Keith that we should follow it, meeting them further down the road, they had seen our intention. They asked us to follow them back in under the instructions to keep our doors locked at all times.
We entered the camp which is huge and sprawling, via a different side and once again many refugees started to gather. We then watched as the quite frankly brave volunteers, made a human chain around the van doors and asked the refugees to form an orderly queue while the aid was distributed. Once the process was complete, a lady called Claire asked us what we had in the van. It became clear that returning to her warehouse was the best option. They had handed out aid in neat parcels making the process smooth and effective. We had big bags of everything and any attempt at distribution would be uneven.
At the warehouse a team of volunteers of all nationalities but mainly British, were organising food, clothes, blankets and tents to be taken into the camp on van runs. We began unloading our donations and they were funnelled off around the warehouse. Looking around at the drawn faces it became clear that these people were completely overworking themselves, as is to be expected in such situations. They were in as much need of assistance and Keith in his foresight had brought with him a huge amount of home made chocolate. As I handed the cacao plant around, it visibly lifted spirits. Such a small but needed boost.
Then came the issue of the yurt, the light was fading and we had no clear direction with where to put it. Space was not exactly at a premium in the jungle and every patch seemed taken. Claire assured us that a man in the heart of the camp had a plan for the yurt, so off we went down the bumpy tracks to find the group of British people in the thick of it, helping the refugees.
Glastonbury, that was the first thing that jumped out at us both as began to see the ashrams, kitchens and communal spaces that and been set up by the volunteers. We were promised a team of people to help us put the yurt up which we were informed would be used as an emergency hotel for families arriving in the night. The best thing about yurts being there capacity to accommodate a wood burning stove. I definite plus in the cold winter of the English Channel. In the end, due to the manic amount of work on for the volunteers, myself and Keith ended up erecting the yurt with the assistance of a man called Biggins.
As the light faded and we entered the black of night, some Afghan men who were living in a small tent, eight of them (5 adults, three children) started to help. It became clear they would take the yurt that night until perhaps the British volunteers cleared them out the next day. Not our job, the fact that the yurt had been erected in difficult conditions on uneven ground meant mission accomplished. Time to get the hell out of dodge. We zig zagged through the camp’s dirt tracks and found our way back to the channel tunnel.
The biggest challenge of the whole trip for me was about to materialise in the form of a French customs officer.
He waved our van over and asked me to step out of the vehicle, as Keith began to undo his seatbelt too, he barked at him: “NO, only the driver.”
We went to the back of the van and the conversation went something like this:
“Open the door. What was your business here?”
“We’ve been to the refugee camp.”
“To deliver aid to the people there.”
By now the official was visibly angry.
“Why?” he demanded again.
I thought about an answer, one that explained the plight of these people. After some deliberation, I placed my hand on my heart, looked him in the eye and said:
“Because I wanted to help.” it was the most honest answer I had.
This made him furious.
“Are you OK?” I asked.
“NO.” He looked like he was ready to attack me. Which I could’ve happily coped with.
Instead he ordered me to the other side of the van and began inspecting the contents. Also asking Keith to open the glove box. By now I was shaken, this was a difficult situation for me, to have someone exercising power over me when there was nothing I could do. I would’ve much preferred a physical attack.
Instead I was at the mercy of this man’s anger and all I could do was take it. It was not only a taste of what the refugees have faced in their journey across Europe but an experience of the sickness infecting the minds of humans. In the face of this aggression I felt powerless. The fight or flight response was useless to me, I could do neither.
This man was in a place of complete fear and hatred and he was emptying it out onto me.
Eventually he allowed us to continue. Back to my family, to my warm home where I want for nothing. I reflected on this. Paris had just been attacked, this man may have known someone who had been killed or perhaps he was affronted and insecure about his safety. Perhaps he was angry that the problems of the world had arrived on his doorstep and we were making them more comfortable.
I don’t know, but this infection is evident in the fear addled readership of the tabloid newspapers:
They are not our problem.
They should go back home.
They deserve to die.
They’re arrival puts the safety of the people we love at risk.
I know that there are people in the UK, people I know that would be angry at me for helping the refugees. How can you get angry at someone for helping other human beings in need? It is wilful blindness to what is going on in the world.
Now for the uncomfortable bit. The state of fear is high, the levels of hate are growing by the day. Rather than get deep into the quagmire of political shenanigans, false flag attacks, the global elite, zionist agendas etc, I simply want to appeal to the reasoning part of your brain, bypassing the fear response of the amygdala and engaging your prefrontal cortex.
The climate is being made ripe for war. If you follow the global manoeuvrings of the US and the UK on this, it becomes clear that a resolution is not the required outcome. The government of this country is required to spend money on war by the people that provide the raw materials for war. It is a highly profitable business from a number of angles. The human life that is destroyed is simply collateral damage.
From the comfortable middle class houses of the UK, it’s easy to get behind the bombing of a nation. It’s easy to cast judgement on a whole race of people or a religion and label them terrorists. Much less so when you have walked in their shoes. Much less so, when you have opened up to the possibility that your government is a corporation and does not have the interests of its people at heart.
Today the government vote on airstrike action against Syria. Instead we should be withdrawing all foreign military occupation, issuing an apology and asking for forgiveness. Forgiveness for all the land stolen, people murdered, minerals raped and slaves taken by Britain. Perhaps then, the prefix of Great, will be more fitting.
I thank all of you who helped with and supported this first journey to France with your kind donations and words of encouragement. In January 2016 we plan to go again, perhaps this time as a bigger group, a group of people that choose love over fear. Action over apathy. I understand the challenge in facing these decisions and the lies I told myself. More yurts are being prepared as we speak, those choices are now yours.
Does it make a difference? Yes, I think it does.
The trip was a great challenge and learning process, in my next update I will talk about the deep but brief depression that gripped me in the aftermath.