Back in October, Paul joined a team of five other friends who shared a passion to visit the camp known as the Jungle to take sleeping bags and tents to share with the refugees living there. It was a painful privilege to be there.
We worked with a French charity; Auberge des Migrants, helping sort through mountains of donations of clothes, tents and toiletries. These volunteers are amazing and work tirelessly for the refugees. They are also provioding a valuable funnel for volunteers from the UK, directing them into productive areas of serving. They have their finger on the pulse of the greatest current need and also areas where donations are no longer required for the time being.
We were able to spend some time erecting shelters on site; providing a slightly more comfortable home for families than a tent. We also were invited to serve food to 1600 at the Migrant Reception Centre, Jules Ferry. We spent very useful time meeting refugees from Iran, Iraq, Darfur, Afghanistan, Ethiopia and Eritrea. Our trip was short, but felt effective, given the time we had. We knew we would be going back pretty soon.
Second trip: 2-4 Nov.
The number of refugees on site on our first visit was 4-5000, numbers are now estimated at 7000. The winter is coming, although the weather has been mild so far. Most of the inhabitants of the Jungle camp are from the Middle East, or Africa, where the sun shines most of the year and temperatures are over 30. Camping in the Summer in Northern France, can be ok, with decent equipment and kind weather. However, the recent rain is no fun when you are living in a small dome tent, surrounded by 7000 others doing the same thing. On our second trip we took 21 volunteers, this time the priority was to build shelters. We worked in a big workshop making timber frames, sheeting them with board, then insulating the inside and covering the outside with waterproof membrane.
The highlight for most of the team was spending time with refugees, drinking tea and hearing their stories. Jasmine, the youngest team member, aged 16 said:
"The thing which touched me most was seeing how caring and lovely everybody still was, even though they are in some of the worst conditions, and seeing the children still playing together, and running up and giving you hugs and kisses..."
Third trip, coming up 26-28 Nov.
We have another team heading out shortly, to continue working with the refugees. Jesus said that what we do for the least of his brothers, we do for him.
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