Hundreds of thousands of people have been seen on our TV screens fleeing situations of war, violence and oppression over the past few months. However, though this situation is being termed a “crisis” due to the huge scale, there have been thousands upon thousands making these same journeys for many years with little or no acknowledgement from the press.
Now that these images and stories are in the forefront of our minds and on the front pages of our newspapers and websites, it’s up to us to work out how to respond. For many, the feeling of helplessness is overwhelming. However, there are also many who are finding small and simple ways to support people, giving generously in money, materials, and time.
We at CHIPS have wondered what our response might be, but now we have had that all-important invitation which enables us to work alongside those already there.
Last week, our Director Paul twice travelled to the refugee camp outside Calais on the request of some volunteers who have noticed a variety of needs to which they thought CHIPS skills and experience might be able to contribute towards a positive response.
On his first visit, Paul went for the day with his wife Katherine. They met and listened to people living in the camp and to those working for charities distributing aid. They were overwhelmed by the generous welcome they received from the people living there, and the warm hospitality they experienced as almost every house they visited people made them tea as they sat amongst the tents and simple wooden frame shacks in which they lived. (see Katherine’s response here)
The primary objective of both visits was that listening - being able to hear both the individual and collective stories of people’s journeys, current situation, hopes, and fears. The overwhelming impression was of remarkably kind, generous, people who have shown incredible resilience people, who have suffered so much at home and on the journey, and who are primarily seeking safety and respect rather than material gain.
From that listening exercise, and the conversations which have flowed from that, we are exploring a few options for how to respond. Any way we do get involved in Calais will only be at further invitation from the people living in the camp and those working alongside them. We will put some of the options to them - many of which are suggestions we heard from people there - and see what they would like us to work on with them. There are some great leaders in the camp who are determined to find ways to serve and support their communities and the most vulnerable, so we want to work with them (if they ask us) to enable them to further become activist for peace and transformation in the camp.
Please keep looking out for updates on CHIPS future involvement in Calais and in the wider response to people seeking refuge in our country. If you would like to know how you can support this - financially or in other ways - please get in touch.
*photo taken from the Telegraph