What's on my mind?
A year ago today (thank you timehop) I returned from my first visit to the Jungle. Something happened while I was there. My heart changed. It broke and it was healed and in that process it learned to hear. It, and I, will never be the same again.
I met Ammer Maki and his friend Gadoora that day. They were the first people that I met there. They gave us "Christmas tea" and biscuits and told us about their hopes and dreams.
Later that evening they saved me. Literally, not figuratively. I got lost returning from an emergency run to the A&E maternity with Nahid Tina, Riaz Ahmad & Dr Hassan. Baby Rosie wasn't born that night, but she came soon after. I watched Nahid Tina's eyes in the mirror all the way there to see if the baby was coming. I can't imagine what she was going through as she watched me right back.
When I returned to the Jungle it was dark, I was lost and had become separated from the rest of the team (half had stayed in the hospital, half in the Jungle). As I walked through the dark, muddy slum trying to find my team I began to panic. I was lost, it was dark, I knew no-one and my phone was dead. Suddenly I recognised where I was and began to call out to Ammer and Gadoora. They heard me & quickly wound their way through the little gaps between tents and shelters and they came and rescued me. I could not be more grateful to them. They took me to their shelter and fed me Aseeda. It would have taken them hours to create that meal I later learned. It was my first taste of Aseeda and the first time I had been looked after by a stranger as well as I would have been looked after by my own mother. I was frightened and cold and lost and they saved me.
As I sat with them and began to relax I could feel my heart vibrating. It actually hummed in my chest. I was in the presence of true kindness, the kind that gives and expects to receive nothing in return. These young men, the same age as my own son had crossed half the world to save themselves from a fate worse that death, to create a future that would keep them and their future children safe and they had saved me. They gave me their food, sat me by their tiny fire and held my hand until I stopped shaking.
Now, one year on, two of them are beginning university in Lille with other friends I have come to know and love over this past year. I could not be more proud. I never got to see Gadoora again after that first visit. He had moved on. I hope that he is happy and that he knows that his kindness has never been forgotten. It has driven me to continue to seek out the kindness in the world. To give without expecting anything in return and to hope that one day, everyone will get to meet an Ammer or Gadoora or Riaz. These young men are exceptional human beings. I am privileged to have met them.
Today the jungle is being dismantled. I am feeling very sad today.