Cooking in the Grande-Synthe refugee camp

[Day 11]

We spent the past few days with volunteers from the Kesha Niya Kitchen in the Grande-Synthe refugee camp. The kitchen is providing meals for around 700 people three times a day (or rather at night, given it is Ramadan). It is run by VolxKüche München and they rely entirely on volunteers, donations and charity. They are urgently looking for new volunteers (cooks, artists, everyone really). Their work is quite extensive and not just limited to cooking… I realized this at latest when I drove to the Calais train station with a borrowed van, picking up a Kurdish family that was stranded there at 3am. So please get in touch with them if you are willing to lend a helping hand.

As for us, it is difficult to put our experiences into words. Florian and I had a few emotional moments during our visit: this starts with hearing about the individual stories of some people in the camp, such as Hussein who is turning 17 soon and tried to flee to the UK during the night we stayed in Grande-Synthe. He made it passed the first two Eurotunnel checkpoints run by the French but was caught at the third control by the British (a process that is somewhat typical and perhaps an indication for planned illegal migration by France?). On the day we left the camp he was preparing to attempt the same journey again that night. We will never fully understand how much pressure there must be for a 16 year old to undertake such a risky journey again and again. We also saw a lot of talent in the camp, especially among the younger children who spoke to us in fluent English. We also encountered strikingly beautiful art… paintings, poetry and music: Shakar, for instance, showed me his superb guitar skills  (I play guitar since 15 years and couldn’t keep up with his fingerplay!). We talked about Paco de Lucia and he showed me Flamenco rhythms on the guitar. Perhaps the most sobering moment was our visit to the children’s center. Once we arrived we saw the kids playing around with a bike and munching on some free candy lollipops – something rather commonplace at children’s playgrounds. Yet this ordinary playing field soon transformed into an unconventional scene: the kids jumped onto a relatively large carrier, hid in its compartments and then drove it around the room yelling “UK… Britain…UK!!”. Our Kurdish friend explained to us that they were acting out an escape; the carrier being a large truck on its way to the UK, the smuggler – played by a three year old – opening the little compartments for them to hide, you name it. The kids transforming something so serious into a seemingly fun play seems to be their way of processing what happens in the camp. Our Kurdish friend had teary eyes when saying “These are our children… this is how they play.”

Initially, the camp may appear as a misery with its 650-700 people stuck amidst their pursuits for a better live. Nevertheless, once we focused more on the individual stories of people – instead of looking at the collective – we experienced hope, talent and extreme generosity within the community. We sincerely hope that our documentary will ultimately portray these experiences through the various stories and snapshots we captured.

Now off to the Calais ‘Jungle’.

Greetings, Timo & Florian

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