In Calais, small things can mean so much
This is me with an amazing friend from Eritrea, who I’ll call Yonas. He’s only young, still in his teens, and he’s been through awful things to get to Calais, but he’s so full of smiles and energy that it’s always a delight to see him. Today he was smiling extra brightly because I gave him the tiniest thing – an earring!
We were out distributing hoodies today, and I was asking how he was. He doesn’t speak much English, but we always manage to communicate with a bit of pointing at things I was admiring his rather striking haircut When something crossed his mind. He pointed at my earrings, then, smiling, showed me his old piercing in his ear.
He seemed a bit proud of that piecing, as if it was something that made him feel a bit different. Sadly his earring must have been lost long ago on his long journey, heaven knows where.
I put my hand to the earring in own ear, popped it out, and handed to him, and as I dropped the glittering little thing into his hand, his face lit up. He flashed that brilliant cheeky smile in thanks, and you could tell he was made up because it gave him a small piece of his old identity back.
Meanwhile, I felt happy that this brave, funny young man had one of my earrings.
We gave out about 200 hoodies today. With the weather getting colder these warmer items are really needed by the refugees here, and they do appreciate the fact people have donated them.
Some of them are keen to get certain colours and mock-plead with us in a cheeky way – we can’t always manage it, but when possible we do give people the chance to swap the one we give them first.
Someone once told me that as well being warm, things like hoodies like this were important to him and his friends because “when we go into the town, if people know we are refugees from our clothes, some look at us in a certain way. But If we look the same as other people, they talk to us more normally.”
It’s bit like Yonas and the earring, something that seems small and easy to give for us can mean a lot to the refugee receiving them. If you can volunteer or donate, please go to care4calais.org