A community photo project designed to help restore our faith in the world, inspire hope for the future and raise awareness of mental health issues

In support of

The Boys of the Jungle

by Kimberleigh Russell Welply

I first meet Amir and his friends in the Kid’s Cafe in the Calais Refugee Camp, The Jungle. As a female volunteer who had ventured into Camp alone they found me as fascinating as I found them. I forget exactly how we started talking but somewhere between playing pool and unlocking a phone we end up in conversation and ultimately head out onto the main Camp drag together. We all chat jovially and I can tell they are excited by the prospect of acting as tour guides. Without an inkling of a reservation I’m going to indulge them. We cut off the main road, or what’s known as the main road, an area full of little plywood shop shacks selling everything from cigarette stacks rolled in tin foil to batteries bordered and packed in with corner nook restaurants making warm and sweet smelling naan breads. Dipping under bin liner covered corridors of corrugated iron and canvas we come out into the heart of the Afghan zone. Amir has managed to purchase a caravan from a man who had found safe passage across the channel. All at the cost of €150 which was half of the money his father had been able to give him in Kabul he confides. He hasn’t seen his family for 8 months, nor thinks he ever will again. Originally he’d lived alone but now shares it with his friend Lal, who arrived in Camp a month ago after undertaking the very same 3 month journey from Kabul. They tell tales of their journey’s but most of all want to talk to their dreams. So full of hope, mischievous fun and grand plans. I marvel at them as they brag about who has the best dress sense and I suggest they start a fashion blog, Camp Street Style or the like. Amir and I take our leave of the fun and boisterous brat pack and wander on. We pass the high fences of the container quarters of the Camp as a tall man, at a guess Eritrean, squeezes through the fence where someone has taken the initiative to cut the wire and fold it back so that one by one the suburban World around can sneak in to enjoy the warm water of the shower block. He looks up unhooking his tshirt from the wire and as our eyes meet, he smiles at me with cunning, playfully and wild eyes – “Fuck the French” he says and winks before disappearing into the labyrinth of this transient World with his wash bag. Never in my life have I experienced hope in the capacity that I did in my time spent in The Jungle. Nor do i doubt I am likely to ever come across it again. Kimberleigh Russell Welply

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