Yesterday was a tough day and our volunteers were amazing, but the highlight of my day was when the french police arrived. Let me explain.
If you have never seen 400 people in a field let me tell you, that’s a lot of people. We were distributing jeans and blankets and the jeans are what made it tough – how hard is it to get a pair of jeans that fit you? Our volunteers worked incredibly hard to find something good for every single person out of our stock of second hand jeans; it took ages.
Alongside this we ran services such as phone charging, hairdressing and hot drinks and played games like football and cards.
When the police arrived half way through there were still 200 people in the line for jeans, maybe 40 in the hot drinks line and many more at each service station. I hurried over to see what they wanted.
But instead of asking us to leave they just stood there watching. And as I stood with them looking around what I could see was orderly lines of people patiently waiting, even though it was taking hours in the freezing cold. Groups at every station relaxing and smiling with our volunteers, who were at every site wearing high viz jackets and monitoring the activities. The overall picture was calm, professional and even fun.
I suddenly felt very proud and very glad that the police were watching. I hope that what they saw was 400 people who are not in any way a threat to them or to society. Ordinary people who just want a chance to live in safety and if they are given it will be our friends. I wish that everyone saw the refugees this way, as what we see in the media is groups of scary men by roadsides, not normal people laughing and playing games.
Any group of 400 people in a field is a lot of people. It would be easy for them to look like a mob. But they are not. On average around 20% – 80 of them! – are under 18 years old. Kids who have missed their childhood due to wars and cruelty they will ever understand. But for that few hours they were playing games and laughing and I wish the world could see that.