as I write this in my warm, safe kitchen, I have watched children making their way to school. It is a chilly morning today, most are wrapped up in warm coats, strong school shoes protecting their feet as they walk over the muddy playing field. A day of education awaits them. Playtime with friends and a warm meal at lunchtime. Maybe a story or some art before parents call to collect them and bring them home. These children are at junior school, most are between 7 and eleven years of age. They have backpacks with books, PE equipment and a hand to hold to keep them safe.
A year ago I would not have thought twice about these children. In my sheltered world, children were always protected, kept safe and looked after by adults who love them. I wouldn’t have noticed the nice strong shoes, the backpacks and the rosy cheeks in the Autumn chill of morning.
A year ago I knew nothing. Nothing of the children, exactly the same as the children I watched this morning, who are living in refugee camps. I had no idea just how many small people are struggling to live any sort of life, alone.
Now it is one thing to consider death, war, famine all the usual tragedies of life, when they are on the other side of the world. The connection is not strong. The news is short, scenes of people struggling hovers somewhere between sadness and the feeling it really isn’t our problem. Now in 2016 this is no longer acceptable.
I visited Northern France and the Calais camp. I saw for myself the conditions in which people are trying to live a life well. It is this that is keeping me awake at night. For all our hopes and dreams for them, the children living there are children who are alone.
The youngest on the census in Calais is eight years old. My eyes again are drawn to the field opposite and the playground, there, later today will be eight year olds, and nine year olds, and children of all ages, playing safe and well. Imagine for a minute that just one of those children was living alone in a tent, perhaps with adults they don’t know. Imagine the little girl with the pink backpack is sleeping on cardboard, surrounded by people who don’t speak her language. Imagine the boy who plays for the school team has no shelter and is spending the nights in the rain under tarpaulin. What we we do?
I suspect there would be police, social workers, teachers and the support of local people offering help. I think that the children would be removed from the shelters, the tent and the tarpaulin and given foster homes, warm and safe, with people who will look after them. I expect the papers would be full of outrage and people would talk about it everywhere you went. The children alone in Calais do not seem to attract such sympathy and action.
So, when you see on the news the faces of these children what will you do? Will you look the other way, will you shrug your shoulders at the news report and say it’s not our problem? Our country is full, we have no space. Or will you be the person who cares?
It is that simple, it is our choice, we need to take care of children everywhere. While one little girl is sleeping alone in the cold, I cannot rest. Join me, write to those with power, sign petitions and rise to the challenge.
This is the holocaust of our generation. Don’t be the person, who in twenty years time is asked by your grandchildren, what did you do in 2016 Mum? and you have to answer nothing, I did nothing. Perhaps you will argue you didn’t know, but we know that you do know, and you have a choice.
Wake up and do something. Now. Today. These children need us all. #DubsNow