What a little boy, living in the Jungle refugee camp in Calais, was able to capture on camera, that we never could...
Nahom is my little pal from the camp. He story is a typical one. He left Eritrea with his Mamma about a year ago, making the slow and dangerous journey across Africa, then Europe, to Calais, where he is stuck at the border of the UK.
As if life in Eritrea hadn't thrown them enough obstacles, crossing the Sahara, then the Mediterranean saw them faced with many more. Now every night they attempt to cross the border, from France, to the UK, tackling huge, razor wire topped fences, jumping from bridges and risking their lives, a woman and child, in an attempt to get onto the train and in to England.
I met Nahom a few weeks ago and took an instant liking to his feisty little personality. No wonder he's had to learn to be a little tough, he has experienced things no adult should have to go through.
This week he came running towards us happily, clutching a little pouch full of chess pieces (but no board). Every time I see him, he tells me he is a different age, but I would guess he is about 8. Looking up at me, I noticed his face was swollen, and he explained to me, in beautiful English, that a wasp had stung him whilst he was sleeping. He had woken from it tickling his cheek, brushed at it, then had an allergic reaction to the sting. As we walked Nils, my brother, noticed a wasp in my hair and Nahom ran away in total panic.
He spent the afternoon with us and showed a real interest in our camera. We also had a really old (our mum's from the 90's) little film camera with us that he enjoyed running about with. He demonstrated real care and attention, a thirst to learn that I assume is not being met as he travels from country to country, a transient, unstable future not accommodating for school; but a very different form of education; some big life lessons.
Nahom lives in the camp. As much as we stay there, sleep there, eat there and people know our faces; everyone knows, including us, that we have the security blanket of going home. We can always, at any point, just jump on the train, using the power of our little purple book, and sit there in comfort until we reach British soil. No matter how hard we try to integrate ourselves, gain trust, build relationships, we will never understand what life is really like, the emotions you feel, living in that camp, because you have no other option.
Nahom took pictures of Afghans, Syrians, Eritreans and Sudanese people that day he had our camera. Despite the differences in culture, religion, language and ethnicity, people looked into that lens and saw him as their little brother, their son, their family. People looked at him with a familiarity and understanding, 'we are in this together.'
Nahom was able to capture an emotion that however hard we try to evoke, we can't. Ultimate unity. Although we stand together in solidarity, alongside the residents in the camp, only Nahom and his fellow inhabitants of the Jungle can share this true bond.
Nahom's pictures captured people without their guard, their self-preservation, their natural instinct to protect themselves that Nahom too, has had to build, like a wall, around himself.
It soon got to lunch time and Nahom was very keen for us to buy him some chicken, so of course, we did! We sat down in a little Afghan restaurant and watched as the guys prepared the most incredible lunch for us in no time. The spices, the flavours, I don't understand how they do it.
Little Nahom ate like a trooper, continuing to make us all laugh. He chilled with the Afghans in their shop for a bit, then ran off to attempt to ride this huge bike outside the tent we were sitting in. He couldn't get his balance so a Sudanese guy ran with him, holding his seat, over and over again until he managed a few wobbly metres by himself.
Again, this was just another demonstration of the beautifully diverse community that has grown within the camp. Wherever people are from, whatever situation has brought them here, they support each other as one big family.
We are all part of that family; underneath in all, we are all the same and should all take responsibility for the plight of our fellow human beings. We are all in this together, this crazy thing called life, so lets bypass governments, lets bypass big charitable organisations, and take some action, as citizens of the world.
To support Nahom and the thousands like him, donate here
Pictures by Nahom and Finlay O'Hara - www.finlayohara.com