There were long delays as we traced our familiar route back to Calais to begin this week’s work. As we were too late to meet with our friends at the hostel, we arrived to attend a meeting with one of the lead staff from the Refugee Youth Service, who updated us on their daily tasks and activities in the area.
People we are now familiar with returned to join us around the table, and as the connections we build with people deepen, they increasingly open up about their lives and memories. Young men continue to build models of small abodes, larger houses and family compounds, carefully building inner rooms, quietly showing us inside these homes they remember or dream of making in the future for their families.
A young teenager sat away from his peers, sorting through our box of postcards, looking for some time at an image of a mother holding an infant near sea, without making eye contact with us before leaving the table, taking a pause before rejoining us later. A little while later, a young person sat down in his place and gazed at the same image. Around the same time, a young person was greeted with great warmth by several boys and men, after returning from a long trip away in an attempt to reach the UK.
Throughout the afternoon we noticed that some time was being spent making lines, going back over them, tracing, and retracing as they felt that the paths that they had made with their pencils weren’t good enough, or clear enough. Some sheets of paper remained with the marks of many different images that had been partly erased, layering up one over the other. At the same time a pairs of men revisited the building blocks, their architecture developing into two and three storeys.
Due to Bastille Day, and yesterday’s delay, our schedule shifted this morning, with our usual routes around the town being redrawn.
As we were welcomed back in to the hostel with tea and comfortable seats, our friend began going through our box of postcards, exploring some that reminded him of home, of sacred journeys travelled across countries.
We remembered familial and written storytelling and our own favorite tales as children. One of our friends talked of his Grandmother, who was the best storyteller, making him believe that he was in side the story. Another man told us about how he is living within a story that his family members will be telling back home, about him travelling across Europe….and that this story will get repeated one day by his grandchildren. The conversations roamed further into the future dream of once again being a restaurant owner. Stories around magic trees drifted from this session into the afternoon.
Young people joined the busy household today for some much needed respite. Many are only able to come in for the day, joining for food, getting their clothes washed and taking a shower before going back out on to the streets of Calais for the night. We were squashed onto chairs, some sharing their seats with us, and we also sensed that the young people were missing reassuring human touch and someone to lean on. On the wall was a handmade father’s day card for the gentle and steadfast man who runs the household.
Around the table a house was built, one was carefully drawn with detail and colour added, and another was painted. One young person drew a house of his future where he would see family reunited. Such was the importance and security of this place that an electric wire fence was added to the image at the end, along with a door to protect the occupants.
One teenager showed us photographs of him and his brother as soldiers in east Africa; he wanted to talk to us of his home, and the painful loss of his sibling in the war. Alongside him, one of his fellow housemates for the week laid his head on the table, struggling between the need to catch up on some sleep and yet remain within the group for companionship, lessening his isolation.
There was fast paced plasticine usage by one young person who joined us near to the end of the session. A rush to join in and complete a small sculpture before we departed and the group ends for the day. The exhaustion was very apparent today, it was evident that people were wanting to stay and were reluctant to leave the safety and community of such a special space.