Saturday 8th August is an important date for me. It is the day my life changed. It is the day I became a part of something bigger than myself. It is the day I joined The Worldwide Tribe.
My absence on this blog had been nothing but evidence of my presence elsewhere. My presence in things so important that I am willing to work every hour of the day and night to keep moving forward. My journey has been an incredible one, it has been a whirlwind but it has been beautiful and heart-wrenching and awe-inspiring. Let’s go back to the start…
Photo – Jasmin O’Hara
It all really started on Monday 3rd August when I saw a Facebook post from my good friend Jaz. She, along with a few close family and friends, was taking a trip to Calais the next day, to start filming a short documentary about the people there. I had a moment of instant clarity. Just a few days before I had come home from work, stressed and upset, after seeing people complain about ‘swarms of migrants’ who were going to ‘ruin our country’. Sam listened to me vent my anger and frustration and, at the end of it, understood when I said I want to go to Calais, that I couldn’t get them to safety or to a better life, but I could tell their stories. So when I saw Jaz’s post, I was elated. Someone agreed with me. It felt as if she was acting on my behalf, to do the things I wanted to do but feasibly couldn’t. She called me on the evening of Monday 3rd, and asked if I wanted to go with her. I did. I wanted more than anything to say yes, thank you, this is what I have been waiting for, but I couldn’t. I was ill, and I knew I would just make everyone else ill if I went. Plus, my energy levels were resting somewhere around zero, and that’s not the right state to be in for a visit to the Jungle.
I didn’t hear anything for a couple of days after that conversation. I waited with bated breath to see what had happened, what was it like, how many people were there and how they were. My answer came in this post, the counterpart of which on Jaz’s personal account reached over 65,000 shares in a matter of days, and I think it was the answer for many other people too. I immediately donated what I could and hoped that, together, we might be able to make life a little better for a few of the people there.
Photo – Jasmin O’Hara
The next phone call came on Saturday 8th August. I’ve never really been one to believe in fate, but I cannot deny that the universe set me up to receive the most incredible opportunity on that day. It just so happened to be the first day of a week off work. Unusual that it started on a Saturday, but I’d booked it off for a friend’s hen do and decided to take the following days too. So when Jaz phoned in the morning from work in Birmingham, overwhelmed because the page for her travel blog, The Worldwide Tribe, had blown up since her post went live, I was able to say yes. Yes, I can jump online and respond to those hundreds of messages pouring in from all over the country. Yes, I can take this weight from you. And it that little moment, everything changed.
I have been communicating with the most incredible, amazing, generous people ever since. I have seen hundreds, if not thousands, of offers of support and donations. I have had my faith in humanity well and truly restored, and I have been surrounded by so much love I can’t even begin to explain. I have been part of a movement, a shift in the tide of opinion, that has raised, collectively, over £175,000 and warehouses full of physical donations for those who need them. So let’s get down to what this is really about. Some call them refugees, some call them migrants, I call them people.
Photo – Jasmin O’Hara
I am talking about the millions of people who have been displaced because of war and conflict in their home countries. Because they are oppressed and discriminated against and they are in danger. You know who I am talking about. The people from Syria, from Eritrea, from Sudan, Afghanistan and more. The people who choose a dangerous journey in an tiny boat because the sea is safer than the land. The people who believe Europe will be safe, and will help them. Who believe that if they make it here they will have the chance to live, to lead a life, to achieve. Those things that we take for granted. But they are not met with opportunity. They are met with closed borders and hostility and disgraceful conditions that no human should ever find themselves in, most especially after having suffered so much already. But not from us. From us they are met with love and open arms. With food and tents and sleeping bags where we can. With ears to listen to their stories and arms to hug when it’s all too much.
Photo – Jasmin O’Hara
Our focus, physically, has been Calais. The Jungle. It’s right on our doorstep and we can be there in just a few hours. We have met the people there, and they are wonderful, beautiful people. They are kind and hospitable. They are generous and share with you, even though they have nothing to share. They have been through pain, and danger and atrocities you couldn’t imagine, but they smile, they laugh and joke.
We would change the world if we could, and we have already seen a huge change in these last 8 weeks. We would find homes and lives so these people could live like us. But we do what we can. We tell their stories, we bring them home and share them and help others to understand. We promote love and compassion and open hearts. We ignited a fire of generosity in the belly of Britain and thousands of people have risen up to the challenge. They have donated tonnes and tonnes of goods that are desperately needed. They’ve been sent to France, to Hungary, to Greece, to Italy. People are warm at night because the world has refused to sit back and do nothing. We cannot fix everything but we will do what we can, and we will keep on doing.
I’ve never been more proud in my life than I have in these last few weeks. Proud of myself, and my friends and my family. Proud of every single person that has uttered a word of support, made a change or an action, thought of someone else first. I am proud of the world. Proud of anyone who has decided to act. To donate, to knit a scarf or to tell that narrow-minded person the real truth. We are changing the tide, one drop at a time.
We are a force to be reckoned with.
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