On THURSDAY in Dunkerque, alongside our three psychologist colleagues from Medecins du Monde, the Butterfly House was used by around thirty children and adults across the afternoon.
There were tracings of postcards, building of towers, left-handed knitting, sewing, calligraphy, drawing on acetate – reflecting the various ways in which creative exploration took place in the room, the space feeling safe enough to try new things.
At intervals across the afternoon we were asked to witness children dancing and beatboxing together on the patio outside, occupying that space creatively. The children opened up the space as opposed to the closing down that feels very much a quality in the camp where adults tred carefully and the atmosphere outside can feel oppressive and controlled.
The overhead projector was used by young children to throw their images onto the walls and ceiling in a playful way – the space transformed and explored in new ways. Taping the acetate drawings onto the windows altered the outside view, bringing a certain magic and beauty to it – which held hope however transitory, along with many other small moments witnessed by each of us.
This is a place where things are decaying as the winter advances, the graffiti feels oppressive, the summer efforts at some decoration already look dilapidated.
With each week there is more sense of ownership of the space on the part of children and adults, with parents helping to clean and put the room straight at the end of the afternoon.
In Calais on FRIDAY we tried to hold a steady course in spite of various false starts. And yet there were moments when we connected with things – in the Calais Museum des Beaux Arts, when the roads linked up and things came into clear focus.
At the Safe House there were tentative moments that led to an interweaving of conversation and a coming together of images and voices, across three languages.
This was our last week before a short break over the holiday period and our saying goodbyes at the hospital highlighted for us how isolated people must feel, and the sense of being stuck in a chamber, trapped by circumstance. And yet even from this place, our Sudanese friend was able to remind himself and us of the need to keep possibilities open – in Arabic, Optimisim – ‘Tafer Ual’, and Hope – ‘Amel’.