More Than Another News Story

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This year our team has seen some crazy shit whilst working within and documenting the refugee crisis.

The craziest for me, have not been the conditions, the pain, the despair of the camps, it has been the way the media conduct themselves whilst getting their ‘story’.

What for them is a ‘good shot’ or a pay cheque, is the moment someone else’s life crumbles around them.

I guess lots of these journalists have witnessed misery and death on a daily basis for a long time. Maybe they have learnt to detach themselves enough to be able to do their job..I don’t know. I definitely haven’t…

Anyway in this incredible new documentary, our friend Orban and his team went behind the cameras of the news teams working within the refugee crisis, to find out how they deal with the emotional trauma of what they are surrounded by.

It’s SUCH an important story to tell. Seeing things from the other side…

Can you help us get the film finished?

We need 1000 people to donate £20 (which automatically becomes your ticket to the screening) to finish the edit.

This film will act as the important reminder that for thousands, this was much more than Another News Story.


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United with Love

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Build bridges, not borders.
Choose unity, not separation.
Choose love, not fear.
Go into every situation with an open heart.

We are all connected.
We are all the same.
We are all human.
We all live on this world together and we should share it accordingly.

We must come together in support of one another.

We are one.

The Worldwide Tribe

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Papers: An Incredible Day

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The dust is still settling, and the team still recovering from the most incredible day yesterday.

We had everything…

Actual shelters from the Calais Jungle, an inflatable boat from the shores of Lesvos, a UNHCR tent from Za’atari camp in Jordan and even the exact wifi access point that we have been installing into camps, up and running, so you could connect to Jangala wifi!

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Live music, poetry, panel discussions, films, Eritrean food prepared by young refugees living in Kent and so much amazing artwork…

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(and all in Jungle time!)

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But best of all was the incredible people that yesterday brought together…

I was humbled and overwhelmed by the sheer loyalty and compassion and power and size of the amazing community we are sharing this journey with.

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From long-term volunteers, to residents of the camp I hadn’t seen for ages, to so many of you guys I had never met before…I have so much love for all of you, I could cry just thinking about it.

Thank you to everyone who came. Now I believe more than ever, that together we really can do anything! (Including saving Alpha’s shelter from being bulldozed and rebuilding it in the Barbican!!!!)

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Pictures by Mike Smith @threecommonnames

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Helping You To Help With RedR UK

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The grassroots response to this refugee crisis has been amazing.

Since our first ever visit to Calais to the present day there has been an overwhelming number of people who have chosen to act. Who have seen this problem and thought “I can do something about it”. Each and every one of these actions has been immeasurably valuable and I can say with one hundred per cent certainty that lives have been saved because of it.

But working in this field can be hard. We all up and go, get stuck in and give everything to making life better for others, but almost all of the time we’re completely unprepared for it.

We don’t have training, we don’t know what to expect or how to handle it or how to go back to normal life after.

Which is why I want to tell you about the wonderful people at RedR UK. They have put together a 2 day workshop called Refugee Response Training, for volunteers and grassroots organisations working in northern France, Serbia and Greece, and for UK volunteers traveling to locations across Europe.

The workshop helps people “to understand the context in which they are working, and to operate more effectively while keeping themselves and those they are working with safe and secure.”

It covers humanitarian context, needs assessment and coordination, sphere standards, distribution planning, protection principles, vulnerability assessment, child safeguarding, personal well-being and accountability to beneficiaries.

It will be so, so valuable to anyone working within this crisis.

For more information about the course, dates and locations, see here.

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Imagine This…

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You live in a huge house. It has 196 rooms. All the 196 rooms have a name and people who live in them. Your room is called Syria. A long corridor separates all 196 rooms from each other.

One day a fire starts in your beautiful room, and as it becomes engulfed in flames, you are forced to escape with your family. You loved your room, but you had no choice. You reach the door to the next room, but you soon see that this room is very full. Lots of other people from your room got there before you. You go on to the next room, where the residents say they will give refuge to only two members of your family, but they have to live in the toilet. You have no choice, you accept. You leave your elderly mother and father there, they are struggling with the journey.

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You keep going, still looking for a safe room for you to live. You’d make a great addition to that room, willing to work hard do your bit to make that room great. You reach another room, they are full too. The occupants tell you about a group of rooms further down the corridor, who they say will welcome you. They have lots of space in those rooms. The problem, is, to get to these rooms, you have to cross a long, scary, flooded corridor. It’s a risky, difficult journey but you’re left with very little option. A man from the room you’re currently camped outside tells you that he can help you cross if you give him £2000. With the last bit of hope you can muster, you give him everything you and my family have left.

You look down the corridor, past the flood, it looks calm and peaceful. You swallow your fear and keep going with your family, reassuring them all will be well when you make it to the other side. You have never been to this part of the house due to the security guards heavily guarding the doors in this area. You don’t know it at all, but you’ve heard good things about it. The crossing is rough, but somehow you manage to make it, your children hungry, cold and traumatised.

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You hug your children close and tell them not to worry, everything will be fine, you are safe now, You knock on the first door of this new part of the house. Someone opens it and you smile and greet him nervously. The man chases you away from the door with a bat, telling you to go back to your own room! Your children are terrified, you run and run until you reach the next door, praying someone here will help you? You knock, and as the door opens you see a lavish dinner party going on inside, the tables laden with food. Your daughters haven’t eaten for 4 days. You swallow your pride and ask for some leftovers. The people at the door turn you away in disgust as if you are somehow inferior to them, as if you did something wrong. You don’t understand…

When you reach the next door, it is slightly ajar so you sneak in. You feel guilty, having never committed a crime before, but you are ready to do anything to protect your family and give them some sort of future. This looks like the only way. You hide yourselves in the toilet, the conditions are bad, and it makes your daughters ill with infection. Life was so great in your room before the fire, you never would have expected to be living in this way.

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The occupants of the room soon find you crammed into the small toilet. They tell you they will tolerate you here. You make life in the toilet as nice as you know how to. You put flowers outside the door and hang your daughter’s artwork on the walls. You build a little area for your children to learn in and spend hours with them learning the language of the new room that you’re in, sometimes with the help of some kind residents of the room who regularly come and visit.

One day the boss of the room changes his mind and gives you one hour to leave the toilet. He makes these demands from his comfy bed in the very spacious room, and gives you no alternative or time to think of a plan. There are many empty beds inside his room but he doesn’t care. You beg him to let you stay in the toilet but it’s no use. Within the hour, he sends his brothers into the toilet, with sticks and tear gas and they beat you and your children. Seeing them suffer like this breaks your heart.

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You hang around in the corridor, finding corners to camp in at night. By day, you wander them aimlessly, wondering what you did to deserve this life, and what the others, in these comfortable room did to deserve theirs. You slowly watch as your children starve, whilst you listen to the laughter behind the closed doors where people eat and dance and sing. Your children’s faces grow more and more vacant as the life slips out of them. Will we all die out here in these corridors?

How can we all live in one house, a house where one family can go through hell whilst other families live in luxury, as if neither that hell nor its occupants exist. How can people ignore the cries of their fellow housemates? We were all born in this house…

Thank you to Shah Lalon Amin and Nel Hargrave for inspiring this version.

Beautiful photos of the Calais Jungle by 5ftinf

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How Do We Make It Better?

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I’m on the train home from Paris right now feeling completely inspired.

Today I presented as part of a human rights day organised by students at a school on the outskirts of Paris.

The students themselves chose the topic of ‘Refugee Rights’ this year, having focussed on various issues such as access to education for women, organ donation and modern-day slavery. Each year the ‘Human Rights Team’ do their research and organise an event for the younger years of the school.

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Today began with showing two of The Worldwide Tribe’s documentaries about the camp in Calais. I followed these with a presentation about how powerful we are as individuals and how each one of us can take action and truly make a difference. This was then followed by a debate.

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The students posed questions to the kids in the audience, aged between 8 and 11, and the answers blew me away. The things the students came out with were passionate and pure and genuinely made me feel like I wanted to cry. They said things like:

‘I think we should open our borders, these people seem really nice!’

And ‘I think we should just all share!’

Examples of thier beautiful questions are:

‘Why aren’t these people allowed in France or England?’

And ‘How do we make it better?’

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I was blown away by the integrity, open-mindedness and compassion, and it left me wondering how the reality has moved so far away from those basic things we teach our kids…love, kindness, sharing. It’s pretty simple!

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These pictures are from when me and Nils did a similar event in a school in Gevena a little while ago, and yesterday I went back to my old uni, Nottingham Trent, to lecture there three years after graduating, which was also amazing!

If you work in education, have kids in school or know a school / college / university that might be interested in a guest lecture or workshop, please email jess@theworldwidetribe.com for more information.

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Mermaids And Sand

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I thought the ocean floor was a place for mermaids and sand, and French singing crabs called Sebastian.

Now when makeshift boats cross the seas,
a thousand bodies row in false belief,
from torture, death and war they flee, we say..

‘Go back. There’s no space on our land.’

Frightened people dream of reaching little more than safety, we say,

‘Go back.’

As hands row for weeks, forward and back, muscles break, aching backs, we say,

‘Go back.’

As arms, pull forward and back and fingertips shiver and crack, we say,

‘Go back.’

As faces sit blank and black, thinking back to the neighbours and friends and homes and the horrors they had, we say,

‘Go back.’

As whispering voices break with fear, and eyes full, streaming with tears, and just as their boats are getting near we say,

‘Go back. There’s no space for you here.’

In a land where sheep graze gracefully on never ending rolling hills, and vodka spills from disco dancing hands.

Where grandma’s do lunch over sandwiches, three-tiered trays of Victoria sponges and rock cakes and scones, jam and clotted cream, where spoons stir our sugary teas, we say,

‘Go back. There’s no space for you here.’

I watched Titanic five times at the cinema, tears streaming down my cheeks as I heard the oarsmen shriek,

“Is anybody out there? Is anybody still alive?”

Flashlights on black night skies, searching for living…through freezing waters praying for shivering skins or whistle sounds, or splashing, or breathing or anything.

I used to think all flashlights in oceans were searching for bodies to save, I was wrong, Hollywood now gone.

Our flashlights shine in frightened faces, condemning foreign skins, we say,

‘Go back. This is our land.’

As babies sink into the kingdoms below, where crabs dance through coral and sea urchins blow
trumpets to welcome the new crowds of visitors as boats topple people into the party below,
and corpses line sea beds with nowhere to go, and mermaids sit singing to show them the way, I hope, at least they say,

‘Welcome, sit down, you’re safe with us now.’

Listen to the full poem by the amazing Hollie Mcnish here.

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For The Mothers

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This post is for the mothers.

The mothers admiring their flowers.
The mothers eating their chocolates.
The mothers enjoying breakfast in bed, a day by the fire, a pub lunch with their family, a cosy evening with their children.

This post is also for the mothers putting their children to bed inside a tent in northern France. For the mother of the newborn, that living outside in the cold has given them an infection they can’t shake. For the mother’s relying on donations of warm baby clothes and nappies.

For that mother who sacrificed her own crossing to safety from Turkey to Greece, so that her three month old baby had a chance of a life worth living with it’s father…

For the mothers of children bombed in their schools. For the mothers of babies lost to the Mediterranean Sea.

And for the mothers who are no longer around for bath time. And for the fathers who have to pick up the pieces. This is Salem Saoody giving his daughter and niece a bath in what is left of their home.

This post is for all mothers.

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What A Year It Has Been

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As the end of the year draws closer, I’ve been in my usual reflection mode, looking back at what a life-changing year 2015 has been…

Every day my heart breaks for the world, aches for those fleeing all that horrible shit. I’m constantly wishing for the warmest winter ever (the camp is so cold), for the wifi to be up and running so people can talk to their families this Christmas, for the world to change and everyone to be able to just go home, safely and life to be back to normal.

Ideally we’d be able to fix the whole world, but together, as a movement of people, we have actually got one teeny step closer to that pretty crazy goal!

We thought we would give you a little overview of our main projects we have been working on over the last few months:

WiFi

*WiFi*

Thanks to you guys we have been able install WiFi in the Jungle in Calais, providing a vital connection for refugees to be able to talk to their families and friends, to access information about their asylum claims and future options, and to have a tool for learning and education. The boys have just got back from nearly a week of constant lifting, climbing, building, head-scratching and problem solving to get to a point where thousands of people are connected.

This was a direct response to what people asked us for. Although some may not see WiFi as a priority, in 2011 the United Nations declared internet as a basic human right. We are now truly understanding the benefits, for refugees even MORE so than your average European (and we know how important it is for us!).

Fire

*Fire Prevention*

We have also co-funded the build of a custom fire truck, created by the amazing Arcadia team, now in it’s container home, in the Jungle, full of water and ready to go.

Another response to the devastation of the multiple recent fires are the solar powered lights we have provided to the camp to prevent the use of dangerous candles, tackling the issue at the root cause.

*Physical Donations*

Our sisters at CalAid continue to store, transport and distribute physical donations of food, clothing, shoes, tents and sleeping bags to the camp in Calais, Lesvos and beyond, ensuring people have the basics they need to make it through the winter months. Together, we have also donated to our amazing friends at L’Auberge and Help Refugees for their building project, to get all the women and children in the camp into shelters for the winter.

This project includes a huge push of support to our Sudanese brothers in an area of the camp that has recently become less accessible. Not only will we be directing a lot more aid and food into this part of the camp, but also have an exciting plan for this area we will tell you about when it’s a little more concrete!

Lesvos

*Lesvos*

We have received so much support from you amazing lot that we were able to expand our work to Lesvos, back when the Island was in an absolutely critical state. We have been able to support the structural and organisational development of Pikpa camp for vulnerable refugees as well as delivering thousands of emergency blankets to those arriving on the Island, distributing food at Moria camp as well as facilitating the placement of over a dozen doctors at Moria camp. Dan and Mark saw in many boats to the Island, supprting 60-70 people per boat and provided 4-way radios to the teams on the ground, enabling them to effectively co-ordinate and review their response to incoming boats.

*The Documentary*

We have spent a lot of time in the Jungle over the last 5 months, sleeping there, eating there, laughing and crying there, forming life-long friendships with the amazing, heroic people we have met. We have used this time to intimately and sensitively document the stories and lives of our new friends through a short film. We aim to use this to raise awareness, and encourage others to consider ‘Who are the humans behind the headlines?’. Our film is nearly finished and will be released very soon!

Dome

*The Dome*

January looks to be a busy month as we will be installing an 11m dome donated by the amazing Pacific Domes in the New Year. This will act as a safe place for vulnerable women and children who arrive on the Island, and are not well enough to go directly to Moria or continue their journey. Dan will be stationed in Lesvos from January where he will be working to maximise volunteer potential and continue to improve conditions. We are also donating a quad bike to be used on the beaches in Lesvos, complete with a winch to be able to pull boats safely to shore.

*Further Plans for 2016*

We plan to develop our WiFi system in Calais to provide fast, blanket fibre coverage for the whole Jungle. Once nailed, we want to roll-out this system in Lesvos, and in other key locations along the commonly travelled routes taken by refugees.

We are also looking for reactive, responsive projects that will improve conditions and support those living in the Jungle in Calais. If you have a project that you think we may be interested in supporting, please email jess@theworldwidetribe.com.

We also have a few other seriously exciting things in the pipeline that we have to keep a little bit quiet until they materialize, but you’ll be hearing it here!

These are not just our achievements, they are all of our achievements. This is a crazy grassroots movement of people who care and that is a bloody amazing thing to be a part of. Times are changing and it’s so exciting! Thank you so much for all being bloody AWESOME!!!

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Things That You Can Do

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We always get messages from you guys wanting to know what you can do to help, which is AMAZING! So we just wanted to let you know a few little steps you can take yourself than can have a really positive impact.

Organise your own fundraiser
Whether you’re up for a sponsored walk/run/cycle, want to hold a bake sale or even host your own party or event, you can use your own skills to help those in need! You can fundraise offline and deposit directly into our online fundraising page or you can set up your own fundraiser on MyDonate in aid of The Worldwide Tribe. Either way, you can safely know that anything you raise will go directly to helping refugees in Europe, through our vital projects.

Drop physical donations at TRAID shops
TRAID are working with Starfish Foundation to collect much-needed warm clothing for refugees arriving by boat on the island of Lesvos. If you have warm clothing, sleeping bags, blankets or anything else on the list, you can drop your items at any of TRAIDs shops across London between now and the end of January.

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Volunteer
If you want to get more active and have some time to spare, there are opportunities for volunteers to support on the ground. Dan will be operating in Lesvos full time from January. Right now we’re compiling a list of potential volunteers to call upon as and when you guys are needed. If you would like to go on this list, please fill out this form.
If you would like to volunteer in Calais, please email calaisaid@gmail.com.

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It truly is the combined work of individuals like you that can make a difference at a time like this. Whatever you do, no matter how little or how much, goes towards the movement of making a better place for our brothers and sisters of this world.

If you have any questions about how you can help, please contact jess@theworldwidetribe.com.

“So powerful is the light of unity that it can illuminate the whole earth.”
Baha’u’llah

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