Looking for Light and Hope in Calais’ Jungle

Posted by Kaylee K on Sunday, October 23, 2016 Under: France

Upon arrival at the Jungle (pictured above), we saw a large group gathered along the road and noticed police and an emergency vehicle. We learned that a man from the camp had been hurt in a fight with another man and was receiving medical treatment. Despite this, the make-shift camp in Calais seemed quite peaceful as 10,000 people await word on when the government will move them and to where. As I write this blog post, the French authorities have confirmed that evictions will begin on Monday and the camp will be bulldozed soon after. 

Last weekend, as we followed an Eritrean boy who’d become our impromptu guide through the winding dirt roads between tents and rickety structures that must serve as homes for now, we saw shops and restaurants run by migrants; we passed by donation distribution centers, churches and mosques. All of these are indicative of people trying to establish a life for themselves while they live in a state of limbo – in France but wanting to be elsewhere. And all with the understanding that the temporary existence is about to be altered once again and knowing that how this happens is beyond any control or will of their own. 

Here's a video of our first impressions: 

One of the largest concerns we heard repeated throughout our visit is how this will all impact the children. There is a school that serves 40-50 children from families living in the Jungle and a youth center helping unaccompanied minors. Those we met who are focused on the needs of the children and youth were all volunteers; some former camp residents who returned to help. At the school, the instructors were searching for temporary homes in Calais for their students’ families. At the youth center, they are distributing cell phones as quickly as they can get funding to provide the unaccompanied youth with a way to be in contact with others and not become lost. These volunteers know that when a large area of this camp was closed earlier this year, more than 130 kids went missing overnight. While some may have chosen to sneak away in order to avoid being put into a system that they do not believe will help them, others likely were trafficked. Children are vulnerable to traffickers, particularly when they become desperate to find their own solutions for their situations. 

By day’s end, we had heard much that is discouraging about life in the Jungle and the uncertainty that is ahead for all of the 1,000+ unaccompanied children and youth as well as the 9,000 other residents. However, we continue to be inspired by our interactions with volunteers and asylum seekers alike as they expressed their desire for solutions that honor and respect people who simply want safety, a home and a future. While the Jungle is certainly not the long-term solution to this crisis, we do wonder how enforcing this upcoming eviction will impact those who have already been through more than we can imagine. Having witnessed people there making do with their current situations and trying to have a life while in transition, we are encouraged to see their resilience and know that, despite circumstances, many still seek the hope for their future. 

In : France 

Tags: jungle  "unaccompanied minors"  france  refugees 

Blog Authors

John and Kaylee Kolditz Kaylee founded Refugee Connect in 2008. John joined the work in 2011 as we investigated the refugee situation in Europe. But our faith and cross-cultural journeys have been a work-in-progress for many years. Much of this blog reflects that. ************************************************ We met in Austin, TX, while volunteering at a serving event at Gateway Church and have been married since 2002. Marriage, parenting and ministry all require a great deal of intentionality, humility and true reliance on God for strength, wisdom, and grace. It is a journey we are grateful to be on together. Ultimately, what matters to us is building into meaningful relationships in ways that, to the best of our ability and by God's grace, demonstrate the love and hope Jesus freely offers to us all. ************************************************ We bring both business and ministry backgrounds into our current work. John started a business in his 20's and helped build several other businesses. He has also served with churches in a variety of roles including as an assistant pastor, director of community development, and missions board member. Kaylee left her marketing career to become the global missions director for our home church in Austin, TX, then founded a local refugee ministry, and became TEFL certified (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) in order to prepare for our work overseas. We have led short-term teams domestically and internationally, and served with a variety of cross-cultural ministries. In 2008, we sensed a call to build into the church in Europe, which was also around the time when God broke Kaylee’s heart for refugees. Since then, God has continued to weave together this heart for refugees, desire to serve alongside the church, and focus on His call to Europe.

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