Today is my one-year anniversary with the Jungle. One year ago today I visited the camp for the first time, and it changed the whole course of my life forever.
It’s been the craziest, most overwhelming, emotional year i’ve ever known, by a very long way...
From meeting my heroes, my inspiration, on that first trip, which sparked a Facebook post that went viral and in turn galvanized a movement, to learning that even without anything, you can be rich.
This year has been about people coming together in support of each other ... The Worldwide Tribe.
In this last year The Worldwide Tribe has grown beyond my wildest imagination and achieved more than I could ever have dreamed of. Not only have we provided food, clothing, shelter and volunteers in camps all over Europe and the Middle East, we have produced 6 short films about life inside a refugee camp in the meantime.
We have done a bit of everything, from setting up Wifi in camps in Calais and Lesvos, to working on beach rescue operations and funding Search and Rescue training for 3 team members. We have run football tournaments and funded 6 teachers salaries in Turkey, supported therapeutic art sessions in Zaatari camp in Jordan, helped fund a custom fire-truck in the Calais Jungle and spoken at the UN headquarters in New York.
I’ve gone from knowing NOTHING about refugees to talking in schools, universities (including to my old uni course), colleges, offices, conferences and even giving a TED talk!
We’ve held a one-day festival at the Barbican, have an on-going exhibition at the South Bank and have established amazing partnerships and fundraised for The School Bus project, Liz and the Women and Children’s centre and Mary and Sikander in the Kids Cafe in Calais.
We have fundraised for a new set of teeth for Jakoub after his were pulled out by the Taliban, for Noor to be able to walk again after a bomb went off at her uni in Damascus, for a vehicle for food distribution in Idomeni and for 21-year-old Hamed, attempting to stop his unjust deportation back to Afghanistan.
Last night, I went out for dinner with my family to celebrate my little brother Fin’s birthday. I sat in the restaurant in my home town feeling reflective. It was the restaurant I used to work in when I was 16.
How did I imagine my life would be in ten years time back when I was 16? Would I have been happy and proud of where I am now…
As we were eating, the waiter brought over a beautiful glass of champagne on a tray with fruit in the top. I presumed it was for Fin but the waiter asked, ‘Is there someone here called Jaz?’
Turns out someone at the bar had bought it for me to say thank you for the work I have been doing. They were gone before I could see who it was, but it made me feel so so grateful…
Grateful for the opportunity to follow my heart and my passion. Grateful that I love what I do, that I know that it’s right, that I’m on the right journey and that I’m exactly where I should be. Grateful that I believe in my work, I give it my everything, and grateful that people appreciate that.
Thank you to that person who bought that champagne, and thank you to everyone who has been on this crazy journey with me, from my friends in the Jungle, to the amazing Worldwide Tribe team, to my inspirational family, especially my little foster bro from Eritrea...you motivate me every day. I love you all SO SO much.