He’s a very special resident of the Calais Jungle. The first time I met him was just under a year ago, in a meeting with all the NGO’s and grassroots groups working on the ground in the camp. I remember it so clearly because he was the ONLY refugee in that meeting.
He was the only person there actually representing the people that we all sat talking about and making decisions for.
I have held so much respect for him since that day.
And I’m not the only one. He is given a lot of respect by the entire Afghan community of the camp, and actually built the first ever restaurant in the Jungle, Kabul Cafe. It was always my favourite place to get spicy eggs, until it was shockingly bulldozed the French authorities a few months ago.
After the bulldozing of the Southern section of the Jungle, Sikander continued to attend meetings about the issues and the future of the camp. One concern regularly raised in these meetings was about the unaccompanied kids, now left without shelters, without official registration, with nothing to do, nowhere to go, no safety, no security and no guidance.
Many of them teenage boys, this often led to them being naughty and getting into trouble. Many having been through serious trauma, now living in ultimately difficult and uncertain conditions and without their parents, this was inevitable really.
So Sikander set about resolving this, alongside our lovely friend Mary, a long-term volunteer who set up the camp library, Jungle Books. Together they built a safe space in the Northern side of the camp where these kids could come and spend time. With donations alone they managed to include a drum kit, a pool table, a dart board and some sofas… But even more importantly, they also provide food. They serve two warm meals a day to anyone aged under 18, for free.
The kids themselves help prepare the food and keep the ‘Kids Restaurant’ clean and tidy, but providing this essential life-line to them is obviously a huge financial drain on Sikander.
As a resident himself, he often misses out of funding or donations coming into the camp, but this is the reason we are even more keen to support him. As a refugee dedicated to helping other refugees, who could understand the needs of these children better.
It costs Sikander £150 to feed over 200 kids twice a day. So little, but not only does this place provide essential nutrition for these kids, Sikander also registers them, keeps an eye on them, talks to them, plays pool with them, gets to know them and really understand their problems and needs.
Last time I was there I noticed his phone number and Mary’s are both pinned up on the wall. What this place has really given these boys is the feeling that someone cares. That someone is there for them, looking out for them. That someone would notice if they didn’t come back. A watchful eye. A guiding light and a loving hand.
Please, if you can, help us to support Sikander and other amazing projects like the Jungle Books Kids Restaurant by donating here: