Beatrice in conversation with Nikki from Jungle Books.
Jungle Books Library operates as both a school for language, art and music, and as a library where refugees and volunteers are welcome to come and sit and read, study, borrow a book or chat and make friends.
Jungle Books welcomes everyone to the library and school so is the perfect environment for people from different countries to come together, build friendships and find out about each other’s cultures. Students come from Sudan, Afghanistan, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Iran, Syria, Iraq, Kurdistan, Pakistan and Morocco.
As well as scheduled classes, Jungle Books runs more intimate conversation classes that provide both refugees and volunteers an opportunity to discuss similarities and differences between Europe, Africa and the Middle East. Through these often informal chats, a great depth of learning and understanding of different ways of thinking and doing things occurs, and so both groups leave Jungle Books more tolerant and knowledgeable about the other. This is vital for people from such different cultures and backgrounds to be able to live together.
The staff of Jungle Books are consistent and familiar, so see the same students on a regular basis and build strong relationships with them. They get to know students very well, so can better assess the needs of individuals, as well as get a clearer idea of general needs in the camp.
Jungle Books helps source various basic necessities such as shoes, clothes, SIM cards, phones, top up, battery packs, food, cooking equipment, bags, tents, sleeping bags, blankets, footballs, home language dictionaries.
Jungle Books is situated in the south eviction zone, a vast empty space, so by taking the short walk down from the often hectic north side of the camp to the south, the mind is cleared.
Language classes in which students can track their own progression, gives residents a sense of achievement in contrast to daily failures regarding their dreams of getting to the UK or claiming asylum in France.
Learning and engaging in relaxing activities such as painting or reading affords residents of the camp residents some respite from the tedium of the jungle, and some much needed mental rest. Focusing the mind and learning a new skill builds a fresh confidence which many people in the camp severely lack after leaving their home countries as very educated and experienced individuals only to find themselves in a situation in which they have no control over their lives.
Giving students the freedom to study and improve themselves whilst waiting asylum claims or UK reunification considerations makes their time in the Jungle more bearable.
Education and communication is one of the most proactive initiatives we can take to ensure that the refugees who are making their way across Europe in search of a better life are able to integrate as much as possible into a European lifestyle. The Jungle is a buffer zone between a handful of very different cultures, and although, by no means an ideal living situation, it is inadvertently creating/encouraging a more culturally tolerant group of people. Jungle Books is very proud to be able to help facilitate this.
The Jungle Books Kids Restaurant was set up in March 2016 after the demolition of the South section of the Calais Jungle refugee camp to provide meals for the estimated 300+ unaccompanied minors still living in the camp. Run by both refugee and non-refugee volunteers, as well as the children themselves, it is a vital service in the camp, as well an integral part of the community of refugees and volunteers.
Jungle Books Kids Cafe was established to protect the children living in the camp, now left without guidance, safety, or security. Without families, formal education, or protection of the state, children are the most vulnerable group to be caught in the refugee crisis.
Entirely run on donations, the Kids Restaurant not only provides three hot meals a day to any child in the camp, but is a safe space for children of the Jungle to spend their days and nights.
The restaurant acts as a home, where children can eat, watch TV, charge their phones, play pool, play games, and hang out in the evenings, and allows volunteers at the cafe to keep an eye on them using a registering system: a much needed service following the shocking news that 129 minors went missing from the Calais Jungle during the South eviction.
The Kids Cafe also distributes shoes, clothes, sleeping bags, tents, phones, top ups, bicycles when available.Volunteers offer advice about asylum claims and UK family reunification, as well as taking children to the legal centres on site, the medical caravans and the hospital when needed. All new arrivals are registered, and families are contacted if the children have any.