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Jaz O’Hara, The Worldwide Tribe in Calais

Jaz O’Hara, The Worldwide Tribe in Calais

In the last few months Jaz O’Hara has started The Worldwide Tribe, a movement to raise awareness and document the conditions in the refugee (often described as ‘migrant’) camp in Calais and document the stories of people who have been driven there by terrible persecution, war, famine and environmental crisis.

There is currently a human crisis unfolding and it has taken one individual to remind us that we are one tribe and one people who should not be defined by the hate filled rhetoric that has emerged in the United Kingdom and Europe in the present climate.

 

Heroes-JazO-02What first inspired you to visit Calais?

I was first inspired to visit Calais about 4 weeks ago, sitting in the garden having breakfast with my parents and little brother. My mum was reading the newspaper, which, as usual, was full of horrible stories about the heavily reported ‘Migrant Crisis.’

We were discussing how we had so many questions. What has happened to these people? Why did these leave their countries? She was reading specifically about the refugee camp known as ‘The Jungle’ in Calais, France, and being from Kent, in the South East of England, it brought the crisis right to our doorstep.

My little brother is a documentary filmmaker, and in that moment, we decided to go there and tell the real, human story of the people living in ‘The Jungle.’

 

What is the mission of The Worldwide Tribe?

The Worldwide Tribe is a travel blog and communications channel, with the mission to inspire people to become international citizens. We are all the same and the world is out home, and we should share it and experience it accordingly.

After the first visit to the jungle, I wrote a post on Facebook about the experience. The post went viral and was shared over 65,000 times in a matter of days. We also managed to raise over £80,000. The Worldwide Tribe’s mission, in regards to Calais specifically, is now to provide humanitarian aid for the people on the ground, whilst continuing to overturn negative preconceptions about immigration.

 

Heroes-JazO-03Tell us a little about the conditions of ‘The Jungle’

Conditions in the Jungle are pretty dire. The French Government have not given written permission for the camp to exist, meaning there is no internal infrastructure or organisation running it. It is actually more of a slum, with very little in the way of facilities. For this reason, all structures are temporary and there are no proper toilets, showers or healthcare facilities for the people living in the camp.

 

What are the biggest misconceptions about the people fleeing to Europe?

The biggest misconception about the people fleeing to Europe is that they are economic migrants. No amount of benefits, no amount of money, no promise of ANY job, would be worth taking the journey that most of these people have taken. Leaving behind you family, your friends, everything you have, everything you know, to risk your life crossing the Sahara on foot, the Mediterranean on an overcrowded boat and the channel tunnel in the back/underneath a lorry.

 

Do you think the press has twisted the word ‘migrant’?

I do think that many words have been used in the press to dehumanize the people I have been meeting. ‘Migrant,’ ‘illegal immigrant,’ even ‘refugee’ seem to desensitize us to the plight of these people, as fellow human beings. How can any human possibly be labelled as illegal?

 

Heroes-JazO-04

 

Heroes-JazO-05Is the current wave of media propaganda on this subject becoming dangerous or sinister?

Call me a hippy, but my message is one about positivity and love. The Worldwide Tribe is about bringing people together and uniting people as one and that is the message we are focusing on. Everyone deserves to have his or her basic human needs met and I am not prepared to stand by and watch as this crisis happens on my doorstep. I do feel that we should learn from history and question what we are fed by the media yes, and hopefully this is where The Worldwide Tribe steps in to provide a voice for these people, a real, honest, raw voice directly from the mouths of those involved.

 

Can you share some stories of people you meet and help in the camp?

Of course!

One of the stories that stuck in my mind was that of a man from Afghanistan. He told me how he had fled his country with over 100 other people with the aim of walking together to England. Many people (mainly women and children) died along the way. They were so hungry they ate grass, and one night, walking through Bulgarian woodland in the dark, he tripped and a stick pierced through his eye. He spent 2 weeks in hospital in Sofia and the group left him behind. He carried on alone and had finally made it to Calais.

Then there were three Eritrean brothers aged 14, 13 and 10. They were alone. Sent by their parents to escape conscription to compulsory, indefinite military service, which is basically slave labour, they had made their way from Eritrea on foot.

But the story that plays a huge part in driving what we’re doing came from a 23-year-old from Darfur, Sudan. He told me that the Janjaweed had come to his village on horseback when he was 18, burnt it to the ground and brutally shot many people, including his dad, just for being black. He was arrested, accused of opposing the government, and put in prison for two years. As soon as he got out, he went back to where the village once was, desperate to find his two little brothers, little sister and mother. He was told his sister was alive and in a nearby town so he went looking for her. She wasn’t there. He searched towns and cities until he was again arrested, as travelling through the country is not permitted. Unable to face any more time in prison, he spent all the money he had to be smuggled to Libya. Here he started his journey, on foot and alone to England.

Heroes-JazO-06‘England, where everybody is always smiling and no one has problems’, he told me. “Is it this cold in England?” he asked in the middle of a sunny day in August. His expectations, and the reality of his life if he ever does make it to England, make my heart hurt.

He told me he doesn’t feel the hunger (the refugees get one free meal a day they have to queue for hours for), or the cold (I cant even begin to imagine winter in this camp), he just feels the pain of his lost family. Each time he spoke the word family, his voice broke and he put his head in his hands. Crying, he told me that every time he closes his eyes, he sees his mother, telling him he is a good boy, and that he is doing the right thing. ‘Why then, am I living like an animal?’ he asked me.

Every night he walks a few miles to the tunnel in an attempt to make it to England, although he told me he was taking a couple of days break from trying to allow his leg to heal. He proceeded to show me a huge bruise on his calf from where he had been hit by a police baton.

Many many people from Sudan tell the same story. Persecuted for being black, many have seen their entire family killed infront of their eyes.

We sat for ages in the Sudanese part of the camp. The guys here searched the surroundings to find the most mismatched selection of chairs, and even made us tea over an open fire. ‘You are our guests’ they told us, infront of the opening to their makeshift tents.

 

How can people help?

To keep spreading the love and help us change opinions, follow the updates of our documentary here:

https://www.facebook.com/theworldwidetribe?fref=ts

Follow our journey in pictures on Instagram here @theworldwidetribe

Twitter here: @worldwide_tribe

And to join our tribe, sign up here:

http://theworldwidetribe.us9.list-manage1.com/subscribe?u=e5c12aa49a2922253d9bf6fb7&id=a33bf73297

You can also donate to our Crowd funding campaign here:

https://crowdfunding.justgiving.com/CalAid

But first and foremost, keep being an amazing human being. Even that is helping! We all have a responsibility to share a little of our light!

 
 
© 2014 The Eco Gypsy - Ethical Exploration.
   


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