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Five friends from Tonbridge to deliver aid to migrant camps in Calais

When five friends visited a migrants’ camp in Calais they were so moved by the stories they heard they wanted to show the world the human beings behind the headlines.

So Dan Teuma, Jaz O’Hara, Fin O’Hara, Ruby Gilmour and Jess Johnson, all from Five Oak Green near Tonbridge, are heading back to the camp, known as The Jungle, with vehicles full of clothing, bedding and other items, many with personal messages from the donors attached.

The pals also hope to film a documentary about life in the camp, where there are shops, a mosque and a church.

Fin O'Hara, Jaz O'Hara, Ruby Gilmour and Dan Teuma. Picture John Westhrop

Fin O'Hara, Jaz O'Hara, Ruby Gilmour and Dan Teuma. Picture: John Westhrop

The Jungle migrant camp in Calais. Picture Jaz O'Hara

The Jungle migrant camp in Calais. Picture: Jaz O'Hara

Mr Teuma, 28, who first went to The Jungle last week, said: “Initially, we wanted to see what the situation was. The whole atmosphere was peaceful.

“A lot of these people were teachers, doctors, vets, in their own countries and, as one of them said, they’re now living like animals" - Dan Teuma

"We were taken around the camp by an Afghanistani man. I asked him if there were any issues between the Muslims and the Christians. He said: ‘We’ve got bigger issues than that.’”

The majority of the 3,000 people in the camp come from Afghanistan, Syria, Sudan, Eritrea and Ethiopia.

“We met a group of brothers aged 10, 13 and 14,” Mr Teuma continued.

“They left Eritrea because of the conscription. There are child soldiers in Eritrea and people in the army are often tortured. They walked across the Sahara Desert and crossed the Mediterranean by boat. They’re just boys.”

The group also met a man who set off on foot from Afghanistan with more than 100 other people.

A plea from the people at the camp. Picture Jaz O'Hara

A plea from the people at the camp. Picture: Jaz O'Hara

Jaz at the camp. Picture Jaz O'Hara

Jaz at the camp. Picture: Jaz O'Hara

Many, the majority women and children, died along the way and he was left behind when he tripped walking through woods in Bulgaria and a twig pierced his eye.

A 23-year-old Sudanese man told the Brits a government gang had murdered his dad – for being black – and he’d been thrown in jail for two years.

 

When he returned to his burnt out village he was unable to find his mother, two brothers and little sister so, fearing for his life, fled for England.

Mr Teuma said: “For four years he hasn’t been able to talk to anyone about this. Every time he said the word ‘family’ he burst into tears.”

Some people ask why the migrants, mainly men, come alone, leaving their families behind.

The group with some of the donated clothing. Picture John Westhrop

The group with some of the donated clothing. Picture: John Westhrop

Mr Teuma responded: “Some of them are not well enough to travel and sometimes they can’t afford to bring them.

"Paying for transport and food would be expensive for the whole family and it would be harder travelling with four or five people.

Children at the camp. Picture Jaz O'Hara

Children at the camp. Picture: Jaz O'Hara

“A lot of these people were teachers, doctors, vets, in their own countries and, as one of them said, they’re now living like animals. They see England as this amazing place where they’ll be safe.

"But now they’ve reached Calais they’re in limbo. The ones who try to get on trains or through the tunnel know it’s dangerous – some of them have injuries from trying – but they’re desperate.”

Jaz O’Hara, 25, who has a background in design and has worked with a number of ethical clothing companies, said the idea behind the donations and the documentary was to help the migrants and inspire others to do the same.
Jaz in a shelter. Picture Jaz O'Hara

Jaz in a shelter. Picture: Jaz O'Hara

She said: “It’s crazy that in 2015 people, including children, are living like this on our doorsteps.
 
"We’ve got no political agenda. We’re just concerned citizens who care about humanity and would love to spread that word so other people can feel the same. We’re trying to share the human stories of the people in the camps.
 
“We didn’t expect this kind of reaction, it’s been really inspirational.”
 
Dan Teuma added: “We’ve been overwhelmed with donations, I haven’t been able to keep up with my phone calls.”
 
The group was due to leave for Calais this week but plans to return with more donations soon. Find out what items the migrants need and locate your nearest collection point here
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