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"It is in the shelter of each other that the people live" (Irish proverb)

CALAIS – NOVEMBER 12-13, 2015


The report below was written just before news of the devastating and tragic events in Paris, and just a few hours earlier than news of the night fires raging through 40 or so tents in the Sudanese area of the Calais camp.

Earlier in the day there had been dramatic, high winds and slashing rain followed by a welcome period of sunshine. Just before leaving the camp to make our weekly journey back to the UK, we joined a group of Sudanese men as they sang and made music together in the early evening sun, shortly after the core musicians had spent a good hour in the tent lovingly supporting their deaf friend as he made a tender drawing of a fisherman in his village back home.


Over the past eight weeks we’ve experienced such change in this place which is developing quickly into a highly complex “city”. Yet another disturbing layer was laid on with the news on Thursday night about asbestos contamination in some areas of the sand-dune which had been a former rubbish dump. The area we are located in is rapidly becoming a French Government building site with construction of the first government tents laid out in rows and new container homes anticipated.

On Thursday we had started to build in the sand on the tent floor. Soon six men were building alongside us creating chimneys, fencing, a housing complex and castle. Objects were packed in, buried and concealed. Fresh flowers were brought in from outside and used as decoration by a young man from Sudan for his family farm.

A teenage boy from Syria responded to a three tiered building, sharing that his home had been like this – three stories now reduced to rubble having been bombed. He immediately set to sieving the sand with his hands, reconstructing his home over the small piece of land he claimed as his own. Initially this became a challenging process as sand towers crumbled and he was forced to start from scratch. We persevered together and thought about rebuilding home. He worked meticulously, selecting materials from inside and outside. All the while his phone sat by his side with incoming comments from his sister in Syria who joined the conversation because he wanted her to translate for him: “I am so happy to see you, my brother”; alongside support for her brother with translation: “This was once our home and then in one moment…” He sent pictures back to her as he worked.

This week the work was delivered by Anna Kalin, Fawzia Afifi, Jess Lintonand Bobby Lloyd. Our pilot art therapy project is now complete and we will be evaluating the work over the coming week with further posts but no work in the camp itself. We are however now in discussion with Médecins du Monde France about Phase Two which we hope to start on November 26th.

Once again please continue to support this project and please share widely.

With thanks from all at Art Refuge UK.

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