I’m back from the camp again, sitting at my computer, in front of the fire.
I was sitting in front of a fire yesterday too, but outside, in the freezing wind, getting as close as I could to it, a group of us crowding around as the last bit of firewood our Sudanese friends had, slowly disappeared. I still find it so hard to get my head around….
I had expected the mood to be sombre, the news to have spread about the loss of the court case and the imminent bulldozing, but despite the uncertain future and the bitter wind, the sun still shone and people still smiled.
EVERYONE, and I mean EVERYONE, goes out of their way to say hello as you walk through the organised rows of shelters, civilised and dignified despite the circumstances. People look you in the eye, smile at you and ask interested questions in a way that just doesn’t happen amongst strangers in the UK.
Some of my friends asked me innocently, ‘Jaz, what is the news of the court case?’ and it broke my heart to have to tell them they were soon to be evicted, adding more pain to weathered faces. But those who did know, were going about their daily struggles as normal, collecting water, hanging their clothes to dry, sitting around the fire in as dignified and positive a manner as I could ever imagine.
But what else can you do? No one knows when, no one knows where and no one understands why. So I guess, regaining as much of a sense of normality as possibly is the least you can do in order for it all not to drive you crazy.
As we walked, we singled out those looking visibly cold, necks exposed, and wrapped them in the hand-knitted snoods that Jess’s mum has continued to supply us with. One girl literally clasped the scarf Alice had wrapped her in as she struggled against the wind, with both hands and looked so happy and grateful it brought tears to my eyes.
When we left, a group of our friends walked us all the way to the car, carrying any bags we had. It was so hard to leave them this time. Harder than I’ve ever felt it before. I don’t know if I’ll see them again. I don’t know what’s going to happen to them. They don’t know either.
These guys deserve a break more than anyone I have ever known. Haven’t they gone through enough for one life time? Shouldn’t they now, finally be rewarded with at least somewhere warm to sleep, the ability to shower or cook, or at least the chance to work, to create a life for themselves?
The Jungle and the people who live there never cease to amaze me. Countless times I’ve been there now, and still, I leave, more inspired and humbled than ever before.
The waved and smiled bravely as we drove away, then stepped back in shock as a local car sped past them, driving way too fast and way too close.
As they walked back to the camp, into the dark, I saw one of them put their arm around another, the youngest of the 5, he’s only 16.
It broke my heart.