‘We have to offer hope’ says Gants Hill teacher renovating caravan for Calais ‘Jungle’ camp teenagers

The Valentines High School community is refurbishing a caravan to accommodate three to four unaccomp

The Valentines High School community is refurbishing a caravan to accommodate three to four unaccompanied minors at the Calais "Jungle" camp in France. Photo: Anthony Michael - Credit: Anthony Michael

School pupils have been helping to renovate a caravan to provide a “safe haven” for young refugees at the Calais Jungle camp.

The Valentines High School community is refurbishing a caravan to accommodate three to four unaccomp

The Valentines High School community is refurbishing a caravan to accommodate three to four unaccompanied minors at the Calais "Jungle" camp in France. Photo: Anthony Michael - Credit: Anthony Michael

Shaken by the image of the tiny body of Alan Kurdi, three, washed up on a Turkish beach last year, David Rey, 48, head of languages at Valentines High School was moved to take action.

Joined by staff, pupils and parents at the school in Cranbrook Road, Gants Hill, Mr Rey raised funds to buy the caravan, which will provide a safe and dry shelter for three to four children at the camp.

“I took a donation in October and decided to go to the Jungle. When I got there I could not, not go back,” Mr Rey said.

“Words cannot really describe it. What is quite devastating is that some of the kids are unaccompanied. They are having to face danger on a day-to-day basis.”

Valentines High School teacher, David Rey, will take the caravan to the Jungle in Calais on Saturday

Valentines High School teacher, David Rey, will take the caravan to the Jungle in Calais on Saturday. Photo: Anthony Michael - Credit: Anthony Michael


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Mr Rey is being helped to renovate the caravan with three pupils from Afghanistan who left the camp in October.

“In a way, it is their way to say thank you and give back to the community,” Mr Rey said.

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“The caravan offers a safe haven to live in. It is not a shed or a tent. The kids can find refuge in there.

“When we bring a caravan, we bring peace. It is a horrific place to live in but they are still trying to live a normal life.”

David is working with the Side by Side with Refugees charity, which aims to provide basic necessities to refugees and their families.

“For a few weeks now, right in middle of the jungle, a kids’ restaurant has been set up,” he said.

“This is where unaccompanied 12 to 17-year-olds can meet and socialise in a friendly and safe environment.

Pupils, parents and teachers have been buying food items for the restaurant and items to kit the caravan.

Mr Rey added he was confident enough money would be raised to pay for the caravan and supply the restaurant with food.

He hopes to take all the donations and drive the caravan himself to Calais on Saturday.

“Conditions are harsh, at the same time, they are trying to live a community life,” he said.

“We have to offer hope and they are still trying to hold onto it.”

To donate items contact David on 07446 169476 or visit sidebysiderefugees.org

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