As college students in England, it can be easy to feel distanced from the migrant crisis. My friend Kai, however, has shown that this need not be the case, and by delivering aid parcels with his mother in Calais, has proven how much difference individuals can make. Interested in his first-hand experience of this global issue, I conducted an interview with Kai, and his responses are presented below.
Q: What was it that made you want to go and help in Calais?
A: I felt a sense of needing to do something about the crisis. I felt a moral responsibility, as a human, to help these people.
Q: What preparations did you make in advance? What sort of things were you collecting and where did you get them?
A: I talked to friends about our proposed plan. Then, from whoever was willing, I gathered old clothes, and also looked in charity shops for shoes and warm jumpers. We did a few ‘big shops’ for food. Back at home, we created packages of food and clothes and piled them in the living room. The room was absolutely stacked with stuff.
Q: What was your initial reaction upon arriving at the migrant camp?
A: Shock, as it was clear that those people had been through Hell. The camp was like a shanty town, and the living conditions were terrible. They were living in absolute squalor, in tents that completely lined the underpass.
Q: How did you go about giving aid? Did anyone try to stop you?
A: No one tried to stop us, there wasn’t any security there except for a razor-wire fence and a single soldier. We parked up, opened the boot, and immediately started handing out the stuff, because the migrants had flooded around the car as soon as they’d seen us.
Q: What was the reaction of the migrants? How did you feel in that situation?
A: The migrants were just very very grateful. They were desperate, standing in the mud wearing half-fitting sandals, so of course they were grateful that we were helping them. One of them tried to pull my jacket off my shoulders because he said I didn’t need it, and that made me feel guilty of course.
Q: Were there many other people helping?
A: There were loads of people, lots of volunteers wearing high-vis jackets, and about four or five people like us. There was no set system though, just lots of people doing what they could.
Q: Was there anything that you saw or heard that left a lasting impression on you?
A: I saw a couple of people there who were smiling and laughing, and I thought, ‘Why aren’t you worrying?’. That gave me a sense of perspective, and it made me realise how lucky I am.
Q: Did you get to speak to any of the migrants?
A: Most of them didn’t really speak, but my mum talked to a woman. Her daughter had been left behind, and she was trying to make contact with her with a broken mobile phone. Another man had lost his two sons in a previous country. He’d jumped on a truck to get through the border, but his sons hadn’t been able to get on it. They were left behind.
Q: Have you got an opinion on how the migrant crisis is being handled?
A: Shoddily. Just the fact that it’s been labelled a ‘crisis’ shows that it’s not being handled well. I don’t think our government realises that people like me feel the need to be helping. The government just takes no action.
Q: Many individuals in this country want to do more to help, but perhaps don’t know how to go about it. What advice would you give to them?
A: Get in contact with the volunteers that are there already, and anyone you know who’s been involved. It’s always useful to look at social media and on the internet for advice and information. Finally, I would say just do it! Yes, it’s a bit scary, but you’re helping people, and they won’t hurt you.