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VOLUNTEER TRAININGS IN CALAIS: ‘The scent of being here and there’

May 17-19, 2022

This week we delivered three days of training for our French partner organisations: one for Secours Catholique volunteers, and the second for the Médecins du Monde mobile clinic team - both focused on delivering arts-based psychosocial activities in the Calais context.

We have been told we have a particular stance, and these trainings emphasised what we have learnt from being at The Community Table in Calais: to listen, witness and offer conviviality; a willingness to engage in play and art activity with others at the table; and the importance of empowerment, voice and choice for people displaced in this specific context.

We also wanted the volunteers who live in Calais to have an opportunity to explore their own sense of this particular context. We therefore walked collectively to the long local stretch of beach that flanks the Calais section of the English Channel. Facing the sea and looking across to the UK brought this beautiful but contested environment into focus, and here we gathered objects, smells and sounds. Portraits were taken of each participant by Aida Silvestri, with their backs facing the English Channel, and later favourite spices linked to memories of home were added to the prints.

Given the emotive nature of smells, we emphasised that we don't use spices and smells with the transient refugee population in Calais due to the need for people's defences to be protected. This linked back to the need for adaptations to context, weather and location, and for us all to think with care about materials and media that are relevant and helpful in context.

Bobby Lloyd, Miriam Usiskin, Aida Silvestri and Kate France

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