The World Wide Tribe
The World Wide Tribe
The entire issue of the refugee crisis and immigration is a difficult topic in general. I know that this subject brings out all sides of arguments and viewpoints…it can’t help but touch politics and spider off into other messy aspects that impact our world. I urge you to take a few moments to read just a few of the individual stories that the World Wide Tribe posts on Instagram, Facebook, or their website. To see the faces and hear these stories will shed more light than any article or interview you will ever read. After speaking with Jasmine, I sat with the thoughts she shared. I personally feel though nothing ever has a black and white answer or fix, following our hearts and being compassionate is our highest calling as human beings, even if at times it goes beyond reason and logic.
Please note that "The Jungle," as the below video identifies, was bulldozed on October 27th, 2016. It nonetheless paints a vivid picture of the ongoing struggles refugee's face, and the people that work tirelessly to assist them.
Bri: Can you describe your first initial feeling of “The Jungle” when it was there and you began talking with the refugees?
Jasmine: The first day I went to the refugee camp in Calais, France, my feeling was very emotional and I was very shocked. I wasn't shocked because of the situation and the conditions people were living in. It wasn't the fact that people were sleeping in tents in the mud. It was much more the case of how the people that were living there were so misrepresented by the media. The people at the camp were very, very kind, and they were welcoming and they were open, loving, strong and heroic. They told me the craziest stories about their journeys. The media definitely portrayed them to be something to fear, you know? It was really shocking and upsetting to me. I felt emotionally connected to the people there more so than I expected to be. I shared a lot of laughs in those first few weeks in the camp and I realized there was a massive strength of human spirit and community. I truly realized we have a lot of similarities despite differences such as race, religion, culture, ethnicity and language. Underneath it all, we are all the same.
Bri: When you started helping the refugees and pulling resources together was it a gradual movement or did you kind of jump right in? Did you feel it was a calling of sorts?
Jasmine: It wasn't gradual, it was very overnight. After the first time I went to that camp in Calais (known as The Jungle) I wrote a Facebook post about it. I wrote that Facebook post just to share with my friends and family on my own personal page, to start telling the stories of some of the people I met that day. I woke up the next morning and that Facebook post went viral. It had been shared over 65,000 times. It was actually shocking and overwhelming. We were hit by people wanting to help and wanting to do something such as volunteer and donate. We raised a good sum of money in a matter of days. So it wasn't gradual and because of that I was absolutely ready to say that yes, this is my calling. The work I am doing is something that, more than anything ever before in my life, I feel is exactly what I am supposed to be doing. I couldn't imagine doing anything else right now. It overtook my life very quickly so I quit my job, my brother quit his job, and we started working more and more in the camp and it kind of grew from that one Facebook post.
Bri: I heard an expression recently that stuck with me. It was “Allow your head to drop into your heart and let that lead the way.”
Jasmine: Absolutely, for sure. I think that's very key to definitely listen to your heart in these things because your head will reason with you and potentially tell you otherwise. I know one hundred percent that I'm on my life’s path right now for sure.
Bri: I think a lot of people question “how can there be a God?” when they hear refugees’ stories, or see things on the news that are so disheartening. I personally met a few people in my life that will say, “…hearing such and such makes me question if there is a God.” They think if there is a higher power, how would it allow for such atrocities to happen? Do you have any thoughts on this?
Jasmine: I would say what I've learned from working in the space, is that what comes out of the most testing and difficult times are the most beautiful times. To feel immense happiness and joy you need to feel pain and you need to experience both of those things to really live a fulfilled and rich life. Actually what I've seen is in the direst situations people find what we as a Western society often search for… and that is ultimate love and support for one another and unity of spirit. It's interesting because the people in the camps I work in don't have material possessions, such as a house, car, etcetera. But actually in Western culture we are really searching for something that they have an abundance, which is love and support of one another, and community. I definitely don't have that feeling of, “how can there be a God?” when these things are happening in the world. I see the beauty in these things and people coming out of the situations.
Bri: This might sound strange or be a hard concept for some, but I truly believe that pain and suffering can be a tool and as an opportunity for us as to evolve and grow… out of the darkness a new reality can be created. I know the camp in Calais is no longer there, and that the French government moved the people staying there to a new facility, correct?
Jasmine: So they gave people the opportunity to go to accommodations. But the problem with this is that in doing so, it forced people to seek asylum in France. Many people did not want to seek asylum in France because they are scared of being deported. If they seek asylum in France they are much more likely to get their asylum rejected and to be deported back to their own country potentially. So actually lots of people are desperate to get to the UK because their asylum is more likely to get accepted because there are a lot fewer people seeking asylum in the UK. But because of typography they have a lot more difficult time getting there. Many people have family in the UK and they speak English and they have good reason to be there. Some of them worked with the British and the Americans armies in Afghanistan or in Iraq. They were translators and now they are persecuted by extremist groups like the Taliban. They're looking to seek asylum in UK as they speak English.
So basically a proportion of people went to these accommodations centers but the rest of the people are scattered around. There are 2,500 refugees sleeping on the streets in Paris.There are several hundred sleeping about in the woodlands near Calais still. I went to a camp the other day which is about forty minutes from Calais, there's a capacity of about 500 in there. Literally just tents in the woods and rats everywhere. So yes, the problem is still here and there are still people in the area. It's definitely not going away.
Bri: How do you respond to those that will bring up the finer points of taking in refugees? For example, there are logistical and financial issues of taking refugees into any country. There are all sorts of variations and degrees of arguments such as these. I think fundamentally people always want to help other people, but then they also worry about all sorts of repercussions, anywhere from logistical concerns, to terrorist attacks and everything in between. They will argue that there must be a safe way to help refugees, so we know who's coming in, how we're going to help them, and how they are going to assimilate. I tend to lean towards just a feeling of just wanting to help, even though I don't know exactly how things are going to work out.
Jasmine: I think it's a common misconception that most refugees are dangerous. For example in Germany they have taken in millions of refugees. It's actually much more detrimental to our economy to deport people. The people that made it to Calais for example are so heroic, resourceful… they are strong and they are educated. They generally come from a well off background because they've made it that far. So actually integrating them into our society I feel is only going to be beneficial to our economy because they are lawyers, doctors, etcetera and they are desperate to work. They are very keen to be given the opportunity to work very hard. It would be very positive for economy. I think Germany is kind of setting the precedent for that and proving that almost. I think there is a worry of who were taking in and terror attacks and things. I think it's really key to remember that the majority of these people and all the people I work with are in fact fleeing these exact terrorist attacks that we are scared of on a daily basis. They are coming from underneath Isis and Taliban rule. I think that the governments are acting on fear… fear of the unknown. It's a fear based mentality and I think that we need to change that to a love and compassion based mentality.
Bri: Do you think this thinking will naturally shift things overtime? I believe more people than not who are coming through are good, and the percentage of people that wish harm on others is extremely small. We can never eradicate that completely. But that concern is always going to be there on some level.
Jasmine: I think you can never eradicate any risk of these things happening. In terms of that kind of narrative and in respect to things shifting, I actually think things like Brexit and Donald Trump will really start to engage people and make them realize that something does need to change. Because they are so extreme in their views. I do think this very right wing kind of shift that we are seeing will help to potentially create a bit of movement against that. So I don't know, we'll see. We don't really work on a government or political level, we focus on more of a humanitarian level. We are working one on one with people and telling the stories of people so we don't really try to engage too much in politics. It's just not a field I know enough about.
Bri: Have any of the refugees you have met had their faith shaken by what they have experienced or seen in their lives? Because from the stories that I have read and seen, it seems like more people than not have a very unshakable faith.
Jasmine: I would say peoples’ faith is what gets them through. Their faith is absolutely unwavering and what keeps them going is that belief that there is a purpose in this and they will come out the other side. Whether they view it as a test or that someone is looking over them, ultimately they have something that keeps them going. It's not just a Muslim faith that we are talking about, it’s refugees that are Christian too and all sorts of religions. So I'd say that faith and hope is absolutely what keeps people going and it strengthens in these dark times.
Bri: Has meeting these people and hearing their stories strengthened your faith? Did you think much about these things before beginning the work you are doing now?
Jasmine: In a way this is new to me ...I mean, I always cared. When I worked in fashion, I worked for a fair trade organic cotton underwear brand in India. We worked with marginalized communities there, so I cared about things like this. But I had never been faced with such trauma and had direct contact with the victims of the world's atrocities. I wasn't ready for that and it has been a difficult journey, but I've learned so much. It has restored my faith in humankind in a massive way. I’ve met the most incredible people that continue to inspire me on a daily basis to do the work that I do.
Please visit The World Wide Tribe to learn more and find out what you can do to contribute. There are so many countless stories they share there and through their social media accounts as well.