This story recounts one PC4R volunteer’s experience helping out at Ghafoor’s Bus in the Dunkirk Jungle. Ghafoor’s Bus is a kitchen on wheels that serves meals to refugees.
I turned up to spend a few days volunteering in the Jungle at Dunkirk and happened to arrive at the same time as Gharfoor’s Bus – a fully fitted out kitchen on wheels! Gharfoor previously served food at the old camp at Grande Synthe – but that bus is now in Greece serving meals every day to refugees there. This is a second bus and was brand new. The food service started with tea around 11, lunch if not provided by a local charity Salaam, and dinner every night. Around 700 meals each service with no limit on how many times people could return – if the food ran out more was cooked.
Gharfoor kindly allowed his generator to be used as a mobile phone and power bank recharge centre….it was almost more popular than his food….and that is saying something. He managed to keep his generator safe but another one we were using was ‘taken away’ because we were not watching! Most people here are Kurdish, there are many families with very small children. There are also some Pakistanis and a very few Iranians and Iraqis and Sudanese. The Afghans tend to stay in Calais.
The police drive past all the time. They regularly come and take everything from the people – tents, food, clothes, sleeping bags. Therefore there is a constant need for more things to replace what is taken – and there are also more people arriving all the time. There has been a lot of rain recently so the ground is wet and muddy and people with no tent have to dry out their blankets and sleeping bags somehow. At the moment that is ok but as autumn approaches it will be difficult. I had the honour of meeting several phone credit requesters – they came and helped with the cooking and food distribution at the bus kitchen as a thank you.
The high point was definitely seeing how the people we were ‘helping’ took over – most of the cooking, preparation and service was done by the refugees themselves…
Apart from peeling vast quantities of potatoes, being sent off to buy ludicrous amounts of salt and onions, tracking down ice on a very hot day, stirring the biggest pan I have ever seen, and spending hours at a time serving single cups of water (while protecting the bottles from being taken away) I was also emergency driver which included taking a family of seven, who arrived at night and had no tent, to a local hotel paid for by another volunteer. The low point is a tie between having to fend off rude man who tried to steal a bottle of water and having to go and verify that a family with a young child really were living in a horrible, falling down leaking tent.
The high point was definitely seeing how the people we were ‘helping’ took over – most of the cooking, preparation and service was done by the refugees themselves…and one day a young girl helped me pick up all the rubbish – we high fived at the end because my Kurdish is nul.
Look Here to Learn More About the Dunkirk Jungle: