Having set off from Cardiff on Friday evening, we had no idea of whether we would even make it to Calais due to heightened security on the border and media reports suggesting that the refugee camp in Calais had been demolished; all refugees had apparently been relocated across France. However, we arrived safely in Calais via the euro tunnel with our car stuffed with clothes, medications and dental materials.
After a well needed night's sleep following the 5.5hr drive, we drove straight to "The Jungle" with a convoy of doctors and dentists who we had been virtually just acquainted with. Unfortunately the police did not let us in, citing that we needed a pass which was apparently very difficult to obtain.
We then made our way to the Care4Calais warehouse, where we deposited some of our clothes which had been kindly donated by our friends and family. Somehow, we managed to get some pieces of paper written in French which we were told was our best shot of getting in.
We then returned to the jungle and informed the police that we were all healthcare professionals and there was a need for the aid we were prepared to provide.
They eventually let us in, and what we saw amazed us. Arriving at the jungle's entrance was a surreal experience with the blazed periphery giving you a view into the vast landscape which once had many thousands living in such horrid conditions.
Despite the authorities claiming to have cleared all migrants, as we got further into the camp, we drove passed hundreds of migrants before we arrived outside the container camp area. This is where it is now reported over 1500 people still remain, many of whom are minors.
We set up a basic triage system with only 3 chairs on the side of the camp. We treated over a 100 cases of acute dental emergencies with many patients in pain from toothache which they had been suffering from for weeks, even months. The medics dealt with many different types of cases, many of which we didn't have the facilities to treat. With many hundreds of toothbrushes and toothpastes handed out, we will hopefully contribute to some improvement in the camp's oral health. It was fascinating to hear the stories of travel and struggle, all for a safer and better life. Our team of volunteers were multilingual, able to speak a range of languages including Arabic, Farsi and Urdu; this proved to be vital to gain information and consent from all patients.
I spoke to a 17 year old boy who had left his home in Pakistan in search of a better life. He had unbelievably travelled through Afghanistan, Iran and Turkey, eventually reaching Bulgaria and crossing Europe to Calais. This had been a long and treacherous journey half way across the world, with the ultimate goal of reaching the UK. However, he was stuck. He had been at the Jungle for 8 months and honestly didn't know what to do next. We heard so many similar stories throughout the day from the refugees that came to us for aid.
No one is taking responsibility for them apart from the grass root charity organisations such as 'Calais Kitchens' who are working around the clock to provide meals 3 times a day and other necessary items. There has been no information on why they are being kept like this and what will happen next. The authorities have made it out like these people don't exist.
Going back to the hotel that night was so difficult, knowing the amazing people we had just conversed with and bonded with, would have such a contrasting night's sleep.
The most recent reports from Calais now suggest that the French authorities have finally made arrangements for the remaining refugees to be relocated, but much too late after making them stay in such conditions.
Our team of volunteers were fantastic, dedicating their days off work to donate their time back to the world. Genuinely beautiful people, God bless them. And thanks to the wonderful people who donated money, without them, the medical supplies used to treat patients would not have been possible. Money was used for supplies only, and any remainder will be given to the charities doing the great work on ground.
Let us all continue in the fight for Justice in the world and stand up wherever we can to help instil righteousness wherever we may be. This is definitely not the end of our story.