Papers: An Incredible Day

, , , , , , , , , ,

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!





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


(and all in Jungle time!)



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.


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!!!!)


Pictures by Mike Smith @threecommonnames


Papers Festival

, , , , , ,

We’re hosting our very own festival, this Sunday at the Barbican, 1pm-10pm and you’re all invited!!!!

A celebration of the art, music, film, photography, poetry and beauty from and in response to the refugee camps and crisis across Europe and the Middle East.

The day will include:

– Our friend Alpha’s shelter which we saved from The Jungle in Calais before the area was bulldozed
– Reconstructions of shelters from the Calais Build team
– Poetry from our lovely friend Mohamed
– Several panel discussions
– Awesome world-cuisine
– Film screenings, including the official screening of our documentary ‘Jangala,’ and ‘The Lotus Flower’
– A five-a-side football match
– Lots of music acts from around the world
– Paintings from residents in the Jungle, and in response to the Jungle
– A live stream from the Jungle
– A big old party


Tickets are ONLY £10 and are selling out fast!

Join the event and find the link to tickets here:

Including work from our amazing friends at:

Knit Aid
Calais Action
Help Refugees
Refugee Info Bus
The School Bus – Mobile Education for Refugees
Project Lift
ART in the Jungle



Inviting You To Papers

, , ,

We are so excited to announce that we are collaborating with the Architecture Foundation, with support from the Barbican, to host Papers Festival.

Papers is a one-day festival celebrating the creative response to the refugee crisis.

Throughout our work within the refugee crisis, we have always been so aware of the positivity and beauty that we have seen and felt, all over the world. There is so much expression, creativity, hope and love in everything, and we are honoured to be able to curate this festival, which celebrates that.

Papers will showcase the art, photography, sculpture, music, poetry, food and architecture of the refugee crisis in an inclusive event that highlights what this is all about; the people.

You can find the full details of the event here.

To book tickets, please click here.


Helping You To Help With RedR UK

, , ,

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.


Bombs Are Falling In Aleppo


Bombs are falling Aleppo.

Approximately 250 people have been killed in the past nine days.

Mohammed Maaz, the last remaining pediatrician in Aleppo, was one of dozens of people killed on Thursday, when a bomb hit the hospital he was working in.

400,000 people still live in the city, and I can’t bear to think of the death and destruction they have seen, they have felt.

That must leave a mark.

These girls have escaped Syria. They have made it to a refugee camp in Jordan and I hope they now feel safe.



But their drawings show how deep this goes.

Little girls drawing tanks and bombs and dead bodies. They’ve seen things I can’t even comprehend, can’t bear to think about.

I hope they find peace, that they feel safe and get the chance to live the lives they should have had, the lives of children.


Your Whole Life Shatters


The vast, beige landscape of a refugee camp in Jordan leaves a lot to the imagination.

It must be easy to pepper the vision with things you remember from home. Plants, wildlife, a proper house. Your husband arriving home from work and your two beautiful sons playing in the garden.

But what about when your memories from home are of war and destruction and pain? What do you imagine when you already lost the life you had, that perfect family life? When the war took that away?

One day your beloved husband is killed by a bomb.

Your world crumbles, but you do everything you can to hold yourself together for your children, your two sons. You can’t comprehend that he is gone, but you want to tell your children that it will be alright.

A few days pass. You try to keep to routine, get the children ready for school. You’re lucky that it’s still open. You wave them off in the morning, and focus on getting through the day.

But your boys don’t come home that day. Your two beautiful sons, killed on their way back from school.

Your whole life shatters.

Imagine painting that vast, sandy, blank canvas of desert with memories of fear, of the end of your world.

Amena doesn’t need to imagine what that is like. She felt the pain, the heartbreak. She lost her entire family in the space of a week.

Now she lives in a refugee camp in Jordan, and she is completely alone. She passes her days knitting and crocheting with donated wool. She gave me the most beautiful scarf.

Through all of the pain of Amena’s story, the unimaginable loss she has suffered, I was surprised at what broke my heart the most…

As I tried on the scarf that she gave me, she smiled at me and stroked my cheek lovingly, like only a mother can.

Thank you to the wonderful Esme Mull for the beautiful portrait. You can find out more about Esme and her current work to document the Refugee Crisis in Turkey here.


Refugees in Jordan


Middle East


When you hear the words ‘Middle East’ what do you think of?

When you hear the word ‘Syria’, what’s the first thing that comes to mind?

It’s probably not break dancing troupes and art projects, the birth of Christianity, Roman architecture, amazing food, roof terraces, the sea side, birthday nights out…


I feel like so much of what I read, the images I see, the things people say back home, are negative and fear inducing. People warned me about coming here, told me to be careful and gave me worried /are-you-crazy looks when I spoke about it…

But the reality is so different.


Yes there is war. Of course there is horror and terror and destruction and despair. I actively spent my week here with the very people whose lives have been turned upside down because of it. But there is SO MUCH MORE. This war doesn’t define these people or this place. Life goes on.


We spent a few of our evenings with our break-dancing Syrian friend. 24 years old and studying English, we never even talked about the war. We talked about Fifa and food and his sisters birthday celebrations, he showed us his unicycling and we laughed a lot. Any Jordanians we were with didn’t bat an eyelid when he mentioned where he was from, if it happened to come up, because it was never even important.


And it’s not important…who cares where you happened to be born or where you happened to grow up, we’re all just people, living our lives in the best way we know how, and these particular people are currently facing some serious obstacles. But the way we respond to that, to their struggle, to this crisis, DOES define us as people. The words we use, the actions we take, the things we think and feel, they ARE important. In fact, these are the only things that truly matter.


Brothers and Sisters

There’s this amazing thing about Jordan that I feel like I have to share…

So this last week working in Jordan, me and Nils have gone out of our way to chat to everyone we came across…taxi drivers, waiters, people we walked past in the street, and we soon discovered a bit of a pattern… Many of these people we were talking to were in fact Palestinian…

Turns out that this isn’t the first time Jordan have done more than their fair share when welcoming refugees, and is a country home to many Palestinians, Iraqis and now, well over one million Syrians. I didn’t really realise this before coming here…


When asking Jordanians about how they felt about this, they consistently gave the same answer:

‘These are our brothers and sisters. When they are in trouble, of course we must help them…’

No one we asked demonstrated any other view but this one.

Similarly, when people asked us what we were doing in Jordan and we explained, everyone’s faces lit up and they were instantly nicer to us, welcoming us, congratulating us on our work and giving us discounts… This is worlds apart from in England or France where, when the conversation of what I do comes up in a bar, the hairdressers, at border control on the way to Calais or with any new people for that matter, I am never quite sure how people will react…

It felt good and right that people here were so comfortable with the simple concept of kindness, compassion and sharing…


One night me and Nils were at a ‘DJ party’ when a song about Palestine came on and EVERYONE stood up and started clapping enthusiastically in time to the beat whilst a small group danced at the front.

Another evening we sat with a Jordanian/Palestinian friend who was born to Palestinian parents in a refugee camp in Jordan and now runs a successful dance school, when we were joined by his Syrian friend who has only recently fled Syria. These amazing two 22-year-old hip hop dancers met through the dance school which had become a bit of a sanctuary to the Syrian guy whilst trying to adjust to his new life. Sitting with them brought it all home to me. Syria is just another country, full of normal people, who had been doing normal things like studying and working and sleeping and dancing…it’s not just a horror story on the news.


The idea that there is ‘not enough space,’ or ‘they’ll take our jobs,’ seems alien to the Jordanians who seem more than willing to graciously share their country, despite the obvious challenges and strain this amount of people will bring to their already struggling economy..

In fact they celebrate how new arrivals add richness and variety to their culture whilst also providing skills and valuable input into the community.

Now I’m not suggesting we take on over 1 million refugees ourselves in the UK, I’m just proposing the idea that it’s possible, that it could actually ADD to our economy and our culture, and that there is a valuable lesson in hospitality to learn from these amazing Jordanians who demonstrate such beautiful multicultural integration and have done for generations!



Yesterday when we arrived to Azraq camp in Jordan, these young Syrian boys were planting and watering some flowers.

As I chatted to them they explained to me that they were from a very beautiful region of Syria, lush with foliage and greenery. The told me what they missed the most, living in this huge camp in the middle of the barren desert, was colour, plants and flowers; that they craved to climb trees and run through grass.



I sceptically rubbed at the dusty ground with my foot and asked them,

“but do you think these plants will grow?’

“InshAllah.” they replied sweetly,

‘We will try.”