Written by Isaac Beecham

A few weeks ago, a group of the church youth arrived at the Fathers House ready for the weekend. We had all agreed to participate in an event we liked to call ‘Refugee Survivor, which meant that we would spend our time building shelters from cardboard, wooden pallets and tarpaulin, living in similar conditions to the Syrian refugees. Now we were by no means as worse off as them, however the weekend was designed to give us a small feel of what they were going through.

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We started off by being put in small groups of no more than 4 or 5, with each group being given a name, based on someone who had once been a refugee e.g. Bob Marley. We then had to collect items that could be used to build our shelters, with assistance from a very helpful Gary Todd. The pieces mainly consisting of wooden pallets and tarpaulin. Each group had a different, but equally successful design, with one going for the spacious and comfortable approach with the others going for maybe the more practical design.

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After we had finished this, we then found out that the water that was needed for our dinner was only retrievable from the other side of Shaftesbury. We needed to walk across the town with our buckets empty and then return, lugging them as we went. After all of this we were hoping for a half decent meal, however it was only lentils on the menu (with curry powder and salt for the lucky few). On the evening of that first night we had a bonfire, also helped by Gary, that kept us warm for a little while before bed. Guarded by the ever vigilant Clive Ozzard and Mike Beecham.

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The next morning we woke up, longing for breakfast, only to find a very surprising lack of food. We weren’t allowed breakfast! It all added to the experience. We started off that morning by doing another water run, and then onto the tasks at hand. We spent the morning by helping prepare the donated supplies that were headed to Calais, we put up and checked a vast quantity of tents (surprisingly the pop-ups were the hardest to pop-down), and we sorted through all of the sanitary items, e.g. toothpaste, soap, toothbrushes, flannels and much more. We then had our daily dose of lentils and continued on our jobs. However, after lunch a group went down into Swans Yard to busk, collecting even more money for the refugees, raising over £20 in just an hour! Whilst others had a much needed, day-time nap. Then the afternoon fun began, organised by a couple of the older youth, the activities included a bouncy tire race and a team building exercise, constructed from random pieces found on site. Later on that afternoon. we would also go on down to St James park to play a quick game of cricket and lounge around on the swings.

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That evening we had the same routine as the night before, water, lentils and then fire, with one notable exception, we also were treated to a movie. The movie chosen was Cool Runnings, and it was a thoroughly enjoyable night (Even with the formation of the official Cool Runnings fan club!) However that evening, we were also visited by the local police, who had also taken an interest and wanted to make sure everything was alright. We went to bed that night, thoroughly pleased, very tired and with the just as vigilant Andrew Watkins, watching over us.