Visible and invisible lines

Throughout the week we heard about a series of break-ins across the camp as well as clashes with police and fascist groups; the feelings of frustration, fear and disappointment this evoked spilled into the groups. On Thursday in the Medecins du Monde clinic it was brought in with numerous snakes and serpents descending on the space and writhing in the heat, on Friday, strong whipping winds kept the group quiet inside the space trying to find shelter from the aggressive environment outside.

News of the death of a 20-year-old Pakistani man from a road accident has clearly affected the community in the camp, and the Open Art Therapy groups were used to acknowledge and process this each day. In the Hummingbird Project safe space, a sixteen-year-old boy from Afghanistan needed to take a moment to lay a bright, red pastel flower for his lost friend. The unimaginable realities for the residents of the camp, becoming far too normal news for us in Calais.

On Thursday, up to four kites soared high above the camp from the Medecins du Monde clinic. One let out to over 200 metres sailed into the clouds and haze; it was left tied to the metal fencing as its creators continued work inside the tent.

Individuals would regularly step outside or poke a head out of the back of the tent to check on it, sharing their pleasure in searching for it far, far away in the sky with us. The kite string was plucked and the group would listen to the vibrations of the cord strung over the metallic fencing, connecting it to us in the strong wind. Two kites were cut – one picked up and continued to be flown by another resident of the camp, the other falling near the police vans and the ‘no trespassing’ sign. When in flight they brought strong solidarity in their resistance and liberation, but when tangled and twisted, they connected to the groups feelings of turmoil and anger.

On Friday, the team were joined by family psychotherapists from Tavistock, the additional support and space to reflect was hugely valued and we look forward to continuing to develop this partnership. The team acknowledged the weight two boys, just fourteen and sixteen years old, had been forced to carry, witness, are struggling to process. One of the boys couldn’t engage with the art materials but did sit calmly, thinking about what he could offer himself for much needed protection and stability. Another young boy we work with regularly came to ask for support in removing splinters from his hands and told the team how he had found himself up to his neck in stagnant water last night, having been caught in a police clash last night. It was difficult for him to settle, but he finally found a great outlet in the flying of a power kite with us, launching it in to the cutting winds, relishing the exhilaration of pulling down hard of the strings.

A number of returning individuals, familiar faces, brought protection and stability to the group, and a recognition of how our continuity and consistency has allowed for the work to become such a part of community life for so many.

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