What do children’s life jackets remind you of?
During one of our distributions at Dunkirk, I met a man who confided in me that he was planning on crossing the Channel in a couple of days. He’d made all the necessary preparations. This included buying three little life jackets for his young children, who were busy playing football and blowing soap bubbles a few feet away from us.
My heart broke at the thought of it. Child-sized life jackets. The kind you’d only need when your kid is learning to swim, or maybe during a boat trip somewhere nice with your family. The kind my mum put on me as a toddler when we were visiting a water park. Something I’ve always associated with having fun, because it usually meant we were going on a coastal holiday.
It’s not uncommon for dinghies to capsize when they try to launch them from the beach. We read stories of children drowning in the Mediterranean time and time again. But there’s something about hearing from the man in front of you that he has had to go out and buy these life jackets just so his kids don’t die that really drives home the reality of the situation.
The truth is, nobody would do it if they had a choice. The man in front of me was clearly shaken. You could see the fear in his eyes and feel the anxiety coursing through his body. He never thought he’d have to buy his children life jackets.
There was nothing I could do to help him. We try to stay in touch with the refugees we meet so that we can help them once they’re in the UK, but it doesn’t always work out.
I’ve thought about that man and his kids every day since that conversation. I often wonder whether they’ve made it or not. I think about whether they’re being supported, wherever they are, by kind-hearted people. All I can do is hope.
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