Well I remembered to set my clock and alarm, I failed to turn ON the alarm so I woke after a VERY nice night of sleep to 15 min before we were to leave to the warehouse to work. Not the best of ways to wake up!
Everyone else was up and ready so after eating a bit we all loaded into the van for the 15 min drive to the warehouse. The warehouse was located in an industrial area on the edge of town. We met our contact where we were told to grab some tea if we liked then we waited for the overview and tour to start. There were about 20 volunteers working permanently at the facility and about another 15 volunteers who showed up like us to work today. We all had to grab a safety vest- we then stood in a circle while disco music was turned on and we each got to show our “signature” move. It was a fantastic way to get everyone moving and laughing straight away.
We got a tour of the 2 massive rooms that were in the process of being put down to 1- to save money. This warehouse supports the camp we were at yesterday and the camps in Paris and the refugees sleeping on the streets in Paris. Yes, it is true……….Google “refugees sleeping on the streets in Paris”. No words. We got a tour of the sorting area, the area where the sorted aid is kept and told where the emergency exits were. The warehouse like most of our work sites was not heated. 4 of us helped to sort the mountain of clothing aid into appropriate bins -sometimes in the donate bin for stained clothing dthat gets sold to a rag maker.
We had told the camp yesterday that some of us would be back to help so we had a little meeting and in the end it was decided that Amanda and I would return to the camp to work in the Women’s Center. We had been asked to return today. Dumb luck had me pull off the highway into a little village looking for a pastry shop……….well we found one with people literally waiting in a line that snaked out the door.
How could we not stop and see what the fuss was about……..total bliss. I literally looked like i’d eaten a puff pastry the size of myself I had so many crumbs on me! It was soo yummy. We drove the 10 min to the camp, only realizing as we were walking towards the guard gate that we didn’t have our contacts info on us……..we just looked official and walked fast and the guard raised the gate for us. Inside the kitchen we found our contact Laura only to be told the Women’s center had burned down in the night.
It truly was shocking- knowing how important this space is for these women. A place to take their scarves can come off, to get supplemental food if pregnant or nursing and to well, just be women. With the rain falling the mood of the camp was that much gloomier.
Amanda and I were put in charge of frying french fries for the kids in the Children’s area. We fried up about 6 big batches and walked them over to the Children’ area after each batch was done. We would also include big plates of mayo and ketchup! There are about 80 kids in the camp who attend a local school during the week and can go to the Children’s area caravans to play with volunteers the other times. With the housing looking as bleak as it does, i’m sure most kids use this area daily.
The “sheds” are heated with heaters and they must have some sort of light source, but no electricity or bathroom.
After the chip frying we were asked to drive one of their vans to and from the grocery store about a mile away- the usual driver was not there so we did the drive for about 2 hours- around and around. We could get 7 extra people in per trip. We got the chance to talk to the people. We had a man who owns a convenience store in the UK, his cousin was watching the store while he came to the camp to check up on his mother-in-law they were trying to get into the UK, 2 other young men had been at University in the UK and 1 had come to see younger siblings in the camp and another had been kicked out of the UK- he was trying to sneak back in.
So many stories, everyone as wild as the next. We headed back to the warehouse to pick up the rest of our team. They had spent a very productive day sorting and moving within the warehouse. We went to our rooms for a quick stop then walked to the city center (about a 10 min walk) to look for a place to eat.
We looked at about 8 places before we settled on this bistro, typical French food. We all had yummy things to eat and it was a nice way to end the day- reflecting on our short but effective time we’d spent in the area and to get to know each other a bit more.