Sometimes, a phone is a lifeline
On my last day in Calais a young man approaches me. He is holding out a basic phone – one that can make calls but nothing else.
“Please madam, you can have this phone but I need one with WhatsApp. Nothing else but I need WhatsApp, please.”
I take a deep breath to explain (once again) that I have a long list of people desperately waiting for smartphones, and some have been waiting for weeks. We try hard to get them but they are so expensive; he will have to be very patient. But then I notice there are tears in his eyes. And as I hesitate I see that he is totally exhausted and shaking. His eyes plead with me.
Calais can be like a school playground. The boys try to look tough to survive. So I know that if he is in danger of breaking down in public it’s bad. But I also know that the endless cycle of police clearances, broken sleep, lost chances and fading hope is totally exhausting and wears down even the strongest.
I walk behind the van and reach out to take his hand in comfort and he clings to me a way that breaks my heart. Really he just needs to be somewhere safe for a few hours so he can sleep without fear. But that is beyond my power.
“Please madam, I want to call my mother. I have no money to do this but with WhatsApp, it’s free.”
I ask him to wait and I go to find my colleague. It turns out we do have a phone left. There are others ahead of him in the ‘queue’ but I am scared this boy will break if nothing good happens to him soon. She goes to get the phone.
He is so happy! He tells us we are both beautiful and kind. He has the biggest smile you have ever seen. He does not want to leave my side for the rest of the day as if I have some kind of magic power to keep him safe and fix his problems. If only I did.
No one should be living in this situation that drives them to the limits of fear and despair. Every human should be able to sleep through the night feeling safe enough to close their eyes.
I am only able to do the small things, like give a smartphone, due to the amazing generosity of our donors. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for this. To donate go to care4calais.org/donate