The little girl. I can’t stop thinking about her. Every time I hear about events in the Jungle, I think of her.
I think of what she feels when she hears the bang that signifies another tear gas canister winging its way into the Jungle. I think of how she understands the thick smoke makes your eyes and nose stream and cough hard. I think of her being cold and living in such horrendous conditions. I think of the fire the other night that wiped out 150 peoples homes. I worry that she has been affected by the smoke. I worry about her little body resisting infections and how she'll fail to thrive living in such unsanitary conditions. I worry about her and her family.
I have a photo of her but I do not feel comfortable sharing photos of children when I do not have the consent of the parents. I look at the photo every single day. And I think about her.
I’ve no idea what her name is or how old she is. I thought she was about 6 months old until I saw her walk. Then I realised she was older – maybe as old as 18 months. She’s just very small.
What do I know about her? She was in a new area of the camp on the second visit. We first saw her sat outside her ‘home’, a tent in the Jungle. She was sitting on her mums knee watching her older brothers play in the muddy ‘street’ outside the tent. Dad was stoking the fire beside them. The fire was two old wheel rims welded together. Great idea for a makeshift stove, bad idea for a stove in the Jungle where a spark can cause devastation. Very bad idea for a camp with little children playing around.
The little girl was smiling. Her mum was deep in thought. Her Dad looked traumatised. I know they are from Syria. I can imagine how the family got to Europe. I have visions of little Aylan and his family. Its unthinkable.
I signaled to the little girls mum and her mum smiled and indicated I could approach the little girl. I kneeled down beside her and held her hands. She was so cold. She was still smiling. My heart ached that little bit more.
The next day, we were sorting out socks for some friends from Afghanistan. In among the black socks, we noticed something pink. Somehow a pair of childs mittens had found themselves in beside a box of mens socks. It was fate.
It was dusk when we made our way back to the family home. All the family were outside their shelter sitting round the makeshift stove. It was very cold and very muddy. I showed the little girls mum what I had in my pocket and she smiled. She unwrapped the little girls hands from her jumper sleeves. I kneeled down and held her cold hands and put the mittens on. She looked at her hands in amazement. She looked at me with surprise. She started to rub her hands together and then held them up to show her mum and then turned to me with the biggest grin. It broke me.
How can something so simple be so needed and appreciated? How can a simple and basic need for a child not be met? The very time when her parents should be enjoying being parents, they are stuck in France in a camp. I can’t imagine what the family have been through. I do know that the little girl needs a proper home and to be able to look forward to a proper future filled with warmth and hope. Not in the Calais Jungle where nothing is guaranteed.
When we go back to the Jungle, one of the first shelters that will get one of our Frontier Stoves is the little girl and her family so that they don’t have to sit outside round an open fire to cook and keep warm. They can sit inside and be warm.
To the person who donated the little pink and white mittens – you gave something that you probably have fought with a toddler to put on their hands. You have made a difference. Not only for that little girl, but to me. You made me realise that we should never underestimate the need people have. We should never underestimate the little things that we take for granted and there is a little girl with cosy hands who loves her new pair of mittens. Thank you.
To everyone who has shared and/or donated for our Frontier Stove appeal, please know that to this little girl and her family, you have made their lives so much better.