Paula Emery, a social studies teacher at U32, took the year off to go explore Europe. She’s back now, sooner than expected. She spent two days in a refugee camp in Calais (ka-LEY), France.
Calais is on the Strait of Dover which separates the English Channel from the North Sea, so it separates France from England.
One way to get from Calais to England is by the Channel Tunnel, a tunnel that goes under the Dover Strait between Calais and Folkestone. The people in the camp are trying to jump onto the back of trucks to get over to England to seek asylum. While trying to jump onto the back of these trucks, people wouldn’t always make it and they’d come back with injuries.
There aren’t that many medical people at the camp because most of the people there are from other countries escaping wars; Somalia, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine, and more recently Syria.
Paula went with a medical group that she found on Facebook called Refugee Support First Aid & Care Team. The care team only goes on the weekends.
The care team has two RVs full of medical supplies.
These aren’t just medical supplies that they bought, these are medical supplies that were donated to them.
Paula was in charge of organizing all of them because she doesn’t have a degree in medicine. A lot of the people who came in had head colds and just basic illnesses, while others were more serious.
There were mostly men in the camp, not as many women or children.
Paula said, “I was told, ‘Don’t take photos and don’t ask questions.’”
The conditions of the camp are intense. “These people packed up everything they could into a bag and basically walked all the way there and now there’s very little chance they’ll get to England because of the uptake in security.”
The camp is on pu blic land which is very sand dune-like with little shrubs here and there. Many people are well prepared, with little camp stoves and pop up tents, but as you can imagine, finding a place to use the bathroom is difficult. There are portapotties there, but those get filled so quick and people can’t afford to have someone come and clean them out so there is feces just about everywhere.
The general mood in the camp was mellow though because conditions in their home country were so bad, they had no choice but to leave. They’ve created a community here with churches and mosques, kitchens, a library, and even a place where people teach English.
After her weekend there, Paula got really sick. Her immune system wasn’t prepared for what she experienced there.
She wishes she could go back and help more because it was such an interesting and great experience to help people there.