Those of you who are regular readers will know that I am currently studying a journalism course. The reason for this is that I want to get people’s stories out there and accessible to everyone. I came across The Worldwide Tribe after it was suggested to me this could be an interesting topic as it is so current. We have all hear about the migrants from around the world trying to get to Europe but we have only heard what the media show and I wanted to see if what they were telling us was necessarily how it is inside the camp at Calais was a good representation of the situation. I was lucky enough that The Worldwide Tribe agreed to do this story and its from Jaz who is the founder of the group. I provided the questions but all the answers and opinions are from Jaz at The Worldwide Tribe. I hope you find this piece interesting and insightful.
1. What made you start the worldwide tribe?
I started The Worldwide Tribe a couple of year ago as a travel blog about my journeys around the world. I wanted to bring light to the amazing things I was experiencing and the incredible people I was meeting. It has continued to be a personal account of where my life takes me, from picking cotton in tribal villages in India, to sleeping in refugee camps in Calais! I started it to inspire a community of international citizens. To make people realise that underneath habits, culture, upbringing and tradition, we are all the same and we all share this world. We all have the same basic needs, food, shelter, safety, health and love, wherever you go in the world!
2. What do you hope to achieve in the future personally with this project?
I hope to inspire people to travel…break down barriers and push the boundaries, get out of their comfort zones and open their eyes to new perspectives! It’s very easy to feel secure inside the little bubble of what you know, but I hope to drive compassion and responsibility for our fellow human beings! In terms of the work we are doing in Calais, I hope to overturn negative connotations and perceptions around immigration in the UK and encourage people to put themselves in each other shoes, relate to one another and extend a loving, helping hand!
3. Whats the hardest aspect of this project for you personally and professionally?
The hardest thing about the work we have been doing in Calais has been to deal with the negative backlash. Public opinion about the refugee crisis has changed dramatically since we have been working there, due, in large part, to the images of Aylan Kurdi lying dead on the
beach, but there is still negative sentiment towards the people in the camp. This is hard to deal with, as many of them have become my good friends, and their stories are ones that I will never forget. I guess the whole experience has been a lesson to me. You will never please everyone and not everyone will support you in everything you do, even if it is giving clothes and food to people who are cold and hungry! The media storm around our work has also brought it’s challenges! We have had a lot of attention and again this has been a whirlwind for us to deal with both personally and professionally!
4. What background do you come from?
I come from a creative, design background. I have worked in ethical fashion for years, mainly for an underwear brand called Pants to Poverty, who produce Fair Trade, organic, cotton underwear in India. Although this may seem unrelated, I spent a lot of time living in the farmers who pick the cotton, and also in the labour house of our Fair Trade factory with the 250 female garment workers who live there. This prepared me for situations and lifestyles very different from what I was used to in the UK.
5. Are there any stories from the people trying to travel across the borders that really affected you personally? If so are you able to share it at all?
The story that has stuck with me the most, is that of a 23-year-old from Dafur, Sudan. He has since become a very good friend, and the person who’s shelter I sleep in when I stay in the camp. He told me that five years ago, the Gangaweed (government Militia) had come to his village on horseback when he was 18, burnt it to the ground and brutally shot many people, including his dad, just for being black. He was arrested, accused of opposing the government, and put in prison for two years. As soon as he got out, he went back to where the village once was, desperate to find his two little brothers, little sister and mother. He was told his sister was alive and in a nearby town so he went looking for her. She wasn’t there. He searched towns and cities until he was again arrested, as travelling through the country is not permitted. Unable to face any more time in prison, he spent all the money he had to be smuggled to Libya. Here he started his journey, on foot and alone to England. England..where everybody is always smiling and no one has problems, he told me. “Is it this cold in England?”, he asked in the middle of a sunny day in August. His expectations, and the reality of his life if he ever does make it to England, make my heart hurt. He told me he doesn’t feel the hunger (the refugees get one free meal a day they have to queue for hours for), or the cold (I cant even begin to imagine winter in this camp), he just feels the pain of his lost family. Each time he spoke the word family, his voice broke and he put his head in his hands. Crying, he told me that every time he closes his eyes, he sees his mother, telling him he is a good boy, and that he is doing the right thing. ‘Why then, am I living like an animal?’ he asked me. Every night he walks a few miles to the tunnel in an attempt to make it to England, although he told me he was taking a couple of days break from trying to allow his leg to heal. He proceeded to show me a huge bruise on his calf from where he had been hit by a police baton. Many many people from Sudan tell the same story. Persecuted for being black, many have seen their entire family killed infront of their eyes. Coming home to England, his story, and that of many others, stay with me and keep me motivated in the work I’m doing!
6. Recently we have seen that people are trying to get through borders maybe in what is perceived as an aggressive way, what is causing this and is it something that people are not seeing which is why it is hard for outsiders to understand?
The way that people cross the border into England is very dangerous. They are forced to climb huge fences topped with razor wire and jump off bridges onto railway tracks. Many people break their legs, backs and necks trying to do so. I would say that this is desperation rather than aggression. From my own personal experience, everyone I have met is fleeing war, persecution or conflict and just wants peace. No one is aggressive, but everyone is in search for safety and security, and will risk their lives to try and achieve it. They do this because they have to, there is no other option. You only risk the lives of you wife and children, crossing the Mediterranean, if this is safer than what you are leaving behind.
7. How do you feel other people could do more to help?
The main thing that people can do to help is spread love and compassion. Radiate these feelings from every pore and spread the message of support for fellow human beings. That is be best thing people can do to help.
8. What plans do you have in the future for The Worldwide Tribe?
The Worldwide Tribe will continue to bring a human voice to world issues. Whether it be workers rights in Bangladesh, or the aftermath of the earthquake in Nepal, we are dedicated to telling the stories behind the headlines.
9. Can people donate? If so, How?
You can donate to our just giving page here:
10. Where can people keep up to date with your great work?
To follow the stories directly from the camp, check out our facebook page here: