This week Art Refuge UK art therapists Anna Kalin and Jess Linton worked alongside Médecins du Monde France, offering art therapy and psycho-social support in the large refugee camp in Calais, Northern France:
“We were very aware that as we approached the camp early on Thursday morning there were many individuals, particularly young individuals, already doing the same journey on foot from Calais’ centre. Later in the day we were advised by one young man returning to work with Art Refuge UK in the tent again this week, that, unable to sleep or settle in the camp, he had walked towards Dunkirk and back again from 8pm until 4am. We were struck by the visible journey one young boy and his father were taking, walking to and from the camp – the young son almost seemingly propping up a weary father on one side and a large teddy bear with dragging limbs on the other. We passed them on two separate occasions today – once on arrival to the camp this morning and then at the end of the day.
“A large-scale world map was introduced to the space, in response to many a shared story last week by individuals recounting their long and difficult journeys. A young man from Egypt, another from Pakistan, then two young men from Sudan, who stitched their steps in to the map, often stopping to catch a breath as if the needle piercing paper reminded them of all they have had to endure. We bore witness to the resting place of a lost friend or a point in their journey where they were forced to change tracks. At other times individuals shared their journeys with others as they selected coloured beads which represented family or home, and there seemed to be a feeling of solidarity and support in those moments.
“At times it was extremely helpful that there were different materials and spaces for art-making within the tent, which gave people a different perspective and focus in order to find some distance. Print-making was continued from last week alongside a range of other activities – bracelet making, painting, poetry writing amidst conversations around peace, home, familiar landscapes of the past, dreams and aspirations of the future. We should also acknowledge the capacity for human connectivity, resilience and good spirit. Songs were sung, laughter was shared, the space was reflected upon as a space where people could forget and yet have strength in their own identity.
“There seemed to be more children in the main camp this week, and the group was attended by a woman, who was extremely keen to find a space as peaceful as the church that she attends daily – a space where she could work through not only her loss of home and her harrowing journey but abuse and persecution on route. We’ve had some really positive conversations and thinking with Medecins du Monde France about our collaboration to support particularly vulnerable individuals, such as women and those suffering with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Really enriching working together, we look forward to updating you further!”