Beatrice in conversation with Michael from Baloo’s Youth Centre.
A safe, supportive space for minors to facilitate psychological development, problem-free time and access to skilled, trained adults representing each community within the camp, including current/former residents. The service works with community representatives who act as interpreters in Tygrinian, Ahmaric, Pashto, Dari and Arabic to combat limited services for children to access language and age appropriate information about medical resources, asylum advice, education, as well as their basic needs and rights.
Baloo’s Youth Service run an outreach programme: targeted outreach to young people who are vulnerable or have additional risks, including physical, sensory disabilities, LGBTQI+ youth, and the young unaccompanied minors. The service also works as a conduit connecting young people with legal, medical and psychological services in an age, culture and language appropriate fashion.
BYS actively promote seeking asylum in France, and work with Medicine Sans Frontiers who provide medical and legal advice and psychological support, providing young people access to respite and asylum services at French foyers such as St. Omer. The youth service provide hospital transportation as well as outreach visitations to children should they end up in hospital.
In the absence of the state’s provision of a registering service, Baloo’s are one of the only services on site that registers and tracks young people in the camp, working closely with national bodies in the UK to report missing children when it is suspected they have crossed informally into the UK, in order to address risks of trafficking. Included in this, is the monitoring of children’s presence in the containers to make sure they are still in the camp and provide safeguarding. The adult-centred facility have limited scope to do so, according to its mission.
Baloo’s Youth Centre is one of the only services providing safeguarding grounded services visiting the homes of some of the most vulnerable children in Europe at present.
BYS provide phones and credit to minors, to ensure they can contact their families, but also to ensure that they themselves can be contacted by Baloo’s staff when they leave the camp to other camps or if they are unaccounted for. For example, if there is a query that the child is missing or if they are at risk of having being trafficked.
The school provides structure and routine to the youth in the camp who need it the most, in an otherwise incredibly unstable environment. People will come to every class, all day every day, often just to kill boredom.
As well as formal classes, the school provides support, mentorship and friendship, and boosts the confidence of its students as they learn.
The school also keeps an archive of every student’s work.