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5th January 2016

Our very own Design Technology Demonstrator Henry Rolls used his Christmas break in a hugely selfless and inspiring way, as he travelled to the Calais Jungle to help those in need. Henry told us all about his incredible trip. 

Henry on a break from working (middle left)

Henry on a break from working (middle left)

I decided to raise money and go to Calais after feeling very upset about the decision to airstrike Syria. I went with my friend Risco from the 21st-27th December to volunteer there, sleeping in my tatty old VW van.  The three weeks beforehand we raised over £2000, of which we spent half of on 48 food parcels and the remainder on transport and any useful purchases out there.

When we were there, our building skills (and remaining funds) were sought after so we got involved with building the basic pre-fabricated shelters in a huge dilapidated old distribution warehouse.  We managed to spend nearly £500 on screws and nails! We worked alongside mainly British volunteers with a large ratio from Bristol; something that made us proud of the kindness of our city.

The last day we went into the jungle to erect 22 of the shelters we had made in the Afghan area. It was a sight to behold, a post-apocalyptic cross between the worst music festival with no music, and a Mumbai slum without the warmth. We helped those fortunate enough to be chosen for a shelter demolish their tents, and then set to work erecting the shelters. Many Afghans would approach us pleading for a shelter, we had to point them in the direction of Ben, the guy in the yellow jacket whose job it was to assess their sleeping condition and choose who gets priority. I took a wander at lunch time and handed out harmonicas to some bored looking guys from Darfur.  Whilst I was curious to hear their stories, it was apparent how they just appreciated a jovial chat and a basic harmonica lesson. It was back to non-stop shelter making right through to the night time, when we checked in to a makeshift tarpaulin Afghan restaurant with Pakistani TV and ate a feast for just a few Euros.

The whole 6 days was non-stop, it was only upon my return and the comfort of my eagerly awaited bed that I had the time to reflect.  How one of the Darfur guys had said that the tear gas of the French police was nothing to worry about compared to the fear they had run from, and how young Omar from Afghanistan had been sleeping on a tent floor and foam roll mat for a whole year.  Did it traumatically affect me seeing such harsh living conditions? I guess I had prepared myself emotionally; there wasn't much that I saw that I wasn't expecting. There was absolutely no doubt that our help was going to make a huge difference to a small handful of refugees, and having a great adventure doing something about it was undeniably better than feeling depressed reading about it on the news or Facebook.

I'd like to take this opportunity to thank those of you who generously donated towards this cause.  I can confirm that aside from the £255 travel costs, all of your money will have gone to providing a slightly less harsh winter for a few who have endured so much already.  We have just over £400 remaining, which Risco is planning to use imminently to transport much needed insulation over in a van.