A report back from the Frontline of the Calais Jungle!
What an epic,awesome, tiring, humbling day we all had. The kind of day that will stay with me forever, a day that posed more questions than anyone had answers for, and a harsh introduction to the art of instant prescribing!
Our team of 7 homeopaths were a mixture of those who had some experience in this situation and those of us who were new to the art of ‘crisis homeopathy’.
On arrival at the Warehouse, at a location in Calais, where all charitable donations are held and volunteers meet to be given tasks, our first role was to to treat volunteers in need of any homeopathic support. I worked with Lou and her McGurk machine whilst we waited for the rest of the team to arrive. We saw a few injuries from lifting heavy items, arnica spray and arnica 200 administered, a couple of cases of nausea and vomiting, and a volunteer who was having withdrawal experiences from an addiction. A quick zap on the Mcgurk of some Ars.Alb, plus a dosage of Blackthorn elixir, and he was as right as rain, infact he even came and sought us out later in the day to thank us for his speedy recovery!
The volunteers there are on a high turnover, people drift in and out for days at a time, all keen to help, but it’s a kind of organised chaos. They need permanent people to help them. Emma, who runs the show, is full of energy and committed, but the warehouse is huge. I’ve never seen so much stuff, rows upon rows of clothes, shoes, blankets, sleeping bags. All being packaged up and then redistributed to other encampments in Dunkirk and the newer smaller camps sprouting up as Calais gets torn down. The volunteers work hard, it’s a tough, physical job.
We then head to the camp, it’s under the motorway bordered by 2 high barbed-wire fences, a high gendarme presence is visible, as is the bleak, empty area, known as the south part, which was destroyed a couple of weeks ago. We drive through the streets of the camp and although I have seen townships and shanty towns in South Africa, these are much more desperate. Everything is so flimsy and tarpaulins blow in the freezing winds. There is the mosque, some shops and cafes built and lots of tents and shelters. Three of us start off by visiting the family area; caravans are given for those with young families and we begin by communicating that we have medicines for anyone who is in need. Everyone is coughing, the sand blows in from the coast, and once the Weleda elixir comes out we become very popular. Men, women and kids all happy to have a spoonful and then once they can see we have good intentions they tell us of their ailments in very broken English, French or by acting it out. We see a woman, 5 months pregnant who has travelled from Iraq, a man who can’t sleep, children who are anxious, and men with asthma.
We then set up a triage system in the First aid area. There are 3 caravans that house medical volunteers; nurses, who have given their time to come and help. They are happy for us homeopaths to administer remedies and then send them on to them for further treatment.
Two of the homeopaths who have been out twice previously have made an excellent job of labelling up remedies donated by Boiron, the french homeopathic Pharmacy. There are boxes of Naryani remedies all labelled up; Naryani Cough and Lung Support, Injury Mix and then various first aid remedies like Hypercal spray. We have New Vista remedies and tissue salts, Viridian have given Vitamin C and there are other supplements.
Throughout the whole day we see 95% men aged 20-40 ish. Suffering from lung and cough complaints. Some asthmatics, minor injuries such as cuts, grazes, bruising, old wounds that won’t heal, some septic infections, ear and toothaches, deficient-type pathologies, etc.
The Weleda elixirs and nasal sprays go down well; so many colds and low immune systems, coughing and spluttering everywhere as the men act out their symptoms!
I walked around at one point to take a break from the complete chaos that is prescribing whilst standing up leaning on a box made of plywood and walk past the washing area. It’s a cattle trough with a hosepipe rigged up. A man is sat seated washing himself from a volvic bottle, so I handed him a calendula body wash. He was touched. Such a nice thing to be able to do. Not much, but it just felt good to show him someone cared.
There was one moment I felt very choked up; we walked up to the Sudanese area, a large tent with at least 30 camp beds all crammed in and some men huddled round an oil drum. They came over to all tell us how they were feeling – and once the elixir came out, it was as if they were reduced to young boys being given medicine from their mums. Made me think of how my own son would be in a situation like this.
We went for a drink in a cafe and to be honest a perfect cup of tea after a day in the cold, wind! We spent time talking to Najeeb , the translator who had come from Afghanistan who is being forced in to claiming asylum in France. An amazing man who speaks 4 languages, but who in his own words, says he can’t bear to think how much this jungle life has affected him, but he knows his memory has changed, he can no longer concentrate or read.
It’s all about survival in the camp, living from one moment to the next.
Would I go again? Yes, anyone and everyone is desperately needed in any capacity, to help on ground level or in warehouse work, but will Calais Jungle still be there?, well everyone is saying how it will be pulled down in 3 weeks, so refugees will be displaced again to other camps, so maybe we will head to Dunkirk. The group – Homeopaths supporting Refugees needs more help, more funding. I would love to go again in maybe 4-6 weeks time as it was a very long day and both physically and emotionally tough. But as with such experiences, I gained so much.