It was a pleasure to welcome back OD Will Warley who came in to talk to current pupils about his experiences of working with refugees in the Calais ‘jungle’.
In the Library, Will used a PowerPoint presentation to enhance his message to the young audience about the horrific plight and living conditions of refugees currently camping out in northern France. He explained in detail about the 10,000 refugees, predominantly from Sudan, Eritrea and Afghanistan, who are struggling to live in ‘festival’ tents, and showed particular concern for the children in the camp who are very vulnerable. He urged the pupils and teachers listening to take action by perhaps writing a letter to their MP or fundraising for organisations such as Help Refugees or L’Auberge de Migrants.
When asked why he wanted to come back to Dean Close to campaign on behalf of the refugees, he explained: “The headlines we all read about the camps can really dehumanise the refugees, often almost comparing them to animals, such as the infamous David Cameron statement where he called them ‘a swarm’. When you go over to Calais and volunteer, you realise the nuances and complexities of every person’s story. They are human beings who have fled from horrific situations and just want a normal life like everyone else.”
In his talk, Will spoke passionately about a recent incident of a 14 year old Afghan boy who had started the process of reunification with his brother in the UK. However after three months and feeling desperate, the boy tried to jump onto the back of a truck which swerved across the road which meant the boy fell and was hit by a car. No one stopped, so the young teenager was just left in the road to die.
Will plans to return to Calais to spend a further two months in the camp. The first time he went he worked for mobile distributions, going around the camp handing out aid on a needs basis. This time he will be working for the Vulnerabilities Team who help those with mental and physical health problems.
Headmaster Bradley Salisbury said: “It is a pleasure to have Will back and to see him growing into such a passionate and responsible adult who is trying to make a difference in the world. We are very proud of him.”
As well as encouraging discussion with MPs and fundraising, Will finished his talk by recommending several charities that have been able to do much, even with very small donations. For those wanting to help in this way, he suggests googling Help Refugees and L’Auberge de Migrants, two excellent initiatives that really are making a difference to real people in real need.