Author Archives: Gary

June Dunkirk Refugee Camp Trip

June 30, 2016

We sent another group (Holly, Gary, Amelia & Jesse) over to Dunkirk for a week of cinema screenings, workshops and fun.  Here’s a diary by Holly and images by Amelia and Gary.

 

Tuesday

We stayed at Esther’s friend’s house in Folkestone Monday night and wake up bright and breezy Tuesday morning. We head to the Euro Tunnel at 7.30 and before I know it (I slept!) we arrive in Calais and head to Dunkirk only 30 minutes away. The camp at Grande-Synthe appears to the right of us, between the motorway and a train track, the camp spreads out in a large triangular shape of gravel ground and wooden shed-like huts.

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Once through the checkpoint and into the camp, we arrive at the two little classroom buildings. We’re working in the one for younger children, and walk into a classroom that could have been anywhere in the UK. Small tables and chairs, weather charts, small pegs for small coats, pasta paintings on the walls, bunting on the ceiling and a big soft play padded area with toys and teddies galore. It’s only when you look out the windows that you are quickly reminded where you are.

We meet Freya, the coordinator of the children’s centre, Holly and Musashi, two long-term volunteers and many lovely short-term volunteers. The centre operates entirely on donations from the public and the generosity and energy of the volunteers. There are a few children in the classroom who are playing with the volunteers, but we’re told most children arrive late morning.

Holly-art1-Ameilia-ArtWe spend the first morning just playing with the kids, doing arts and crafts, chatting to the volunteers and getting a feel for the place. The parachute games start off chaotically outside, but end up being great fun and lots of kids joining in (we recruit a bigger boy to help gain some discipline!)

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Lunch is taken 1.30pm to 3pm and we realise that after lunch is the perfect time to screen films. We choose the Kurdish film ‘Bekas’ and have a poster created and written in Kurdish (about 95% of the camp in Dunkirk are Kurdish.)  After promoting the film in the morning, we happily return from lunch to a big group of children outside the school room all eagerly awaiting the Cinema.  With the screening in the soft play room, the audience get cosy in blankets, on cushions and small plastic chairs and delightedly watch the film.  Immersed in the film they watch wide-eyed and bellowing with laughter – a total success!

Wednesday

The rain arrives with us this morning. Not too heavy, but perhaps enough to put off some children coming to school. Ruth, a retired music teacher has travelled from Britain to deliver a music workshops with the kids, except there is only one child – the most gorgeous 2 year old who demands her mum takes her to school first thing.  So we decide to walk around camp and gather the children ourselves, playing the drums, tambourines and shakers, chatting to families as they come out of their huts to hear what the noise was about.  We have some of our first conversations with the women in the camp, who tend to stay in their huts. The camp is certainly very male dominated, with groups of men chatting together and the volunteers and children being the most visible females.  A group of children proudly show us their pets – 5 fish swimming in a pan next to a collection of plants.

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After returning to the school with no children we are delighted to find about 10 once we get inside. Ruth plays the guitar and leads songs, and we play the hokey cokey and Simon says.  A man from the camp who was a music teacher in Kurdistan sings to the children in Kurdish.  We create the poster for our afternoon screening of ‘Shaun the Sheep’ and head out for lunch. We eat a delicious meal of curry salad and bread created by residents of the camp who are chefs, and sit down to eat with residents and other volunteers.

Returning to the classroom, we find a hoard of children outside chanting ‘cinema, cinema, cinema’. They enjoy the cartoons and short animations but they don’t hold their attention like ‘Bekas’ had. This afternoon is particularly tough as it’s so hot – the children are easily agitated and resort to being quite boisterous. We change the plan and screen ‘Mr Bean’, which holds their attention till the end of school. We get the parachute out and lure them from the classroom with outdoor games – it’s always a struggle to close at the end of each day as the kids are reluctant to leave, and removing them has turned into a game on their side!

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Thursday

Lots of children are in this morning. We get cracking with our arts and crafts activities. Amelia makes cat and mouse ears which the children love whilst I help them make handheld kites with strings of colourful material attached, flying in the wind. Gary and Jesse finish raking the stony ground to create a relatively smooth football pitch for the kids. A young man comes to see what we are doing and helps them with the raking and then joins in the games.

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The kitchen relies mainly on donations of food and money in order to keep open. We go to the coffee tent but the coffee has run out quickly so we go for tea but there are no cups or bowls- there definitely isn’t a surplus of supplies. I take my daily trip to a man with a table selling snacks and cigarettes and purchase that afternoon’s cinema snacks- a pack of chocolate biscuits. We screen Kurdish cartoons which go down a treat, but the feature length animation we play after is very slow. Everyone begins to get bored and requests good old ‘Mr Bean’.

Friday

Our final day in the camp, and also Amelia’s 21st birthday. We buy an apricot tart (birthday cake) and take it to school to share it with the children. The children sit around the table with a cup of milk and a slice of cake and Holly, a volunteer, leads a huge happy birthday sing-a-long with ‘happy birthday’ being shouted in both English and Kurdish. We then lift her up for 21 bumps which the children find hilarious!

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Bumps

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Today the weather’s a bit miserable. Without camp residents standing in the camp drinking coffee and chatting, without kids cycling up and down and families cooking outside their huts, it has a much more subdued feel. All of the residents are in their huts, listening to the rain beating down on their roofs.

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We make masks with colourful paper plates and big paper bags. They love the glittery pom poms and googly eyes, which end up all over their faces instead of the masks. We finish off our lovely final morning with games of snakes and ladders and air hockey.  After leaving a projector, speakers and a hard drive filled with children’s films with the grateful volunteers, we bid our reluctant farewells and head back to the channel tunnel and join the Euro football fans queuing for the train.

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Khangendra Disabled Home

November 13, 2015

For our third screening we visited Khagendra,  a home for disabled children and adults.  It felt really special putting on a screening for them all, especially as they don’t get much in the way of facilities and activities.

IMG_1853They were all very excited to have us visit and there were lots of smiles and laughter.  Some are able to move about themselves, whilst others have to be moved around in their chairs or on trolley beds, but the centre is very understaffed so they’re very limited to what they can do and where they can go.

IMG_1859We screened a number of shorts varying from Tom and Jerry to some more magical abstract animations.  I’d visited the home twice before and had filmed lots of the residents, we screened a seven minute film of them which got some good laughs and we hope made them feel special.

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For the main feature the crew played Jungle Book again.  It felt like the perfect film for all ages and the mix of abilities.  Along with the people who live at Khangendra we were also joined by lots of other westerners who volunteer at and support the home.  They all really love our project and think it’s a wonderful idea, and you can see from the photos the kids are engrossed in the films.
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The Tihar festival continues, and lots of kids are roaming around the streets in groups singing at houses or shops in return for money.  It’s a bit like a cross between Christmas carols and halloween!  Today is the final day of Tihar and it’s Bhai Tikar, where sisters bless their brothers. They’ll often travel long distances to be with family, although the fuel crisis is limiting that at the moment.  Sisters will put seven multi coloured marks on their brothers heads and give them gifts, and then the brothers do the same to the sisters.  This festival strengthens the close relationship between brothers and sisters.  Below is a photo of the powder that makes the tikar.

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Chuchepati Camp – Great Second Screening

November 11, 2015

So Tihar Festival has started here.  It runs for five days and is comparable to Christmas in importance for Nepali’s.  Yesterday was the dog day!  Dogs get a puja on their heads, flower garlands around their necks (see pic below) and get treats all day.  Today is Lakshmi Puja, and Lakshmi is the Hindu goddess of wealth, fortune, and prosperity (both material and spiritual.)  People bless things like their wallets and safe’s, and hope some more money might come their way.

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We had a wonderful screening in Chuchepati camp last night, where displaced people are still living six months after the earthquake.  Up (dubbed into Hindi) was our main feature and they really enjoyed it, there are lots of dogs in the animation which fitted nicely with Dog Puja day.

IMG_1689We’d got the kids to film each other before the screening on a small flip cameras, so projected some of that before hand, along with some beautiful shorts and some drone footage I took of the camp from the air.  As you can imagine the kids were pretty excited to see a small quadcopter flying over the camp, and then spotting their tents and tent school from the aerial footage.  The people in the camp were so helpful in putting up and taking down the cinema, and are very keen for us to return as soon as possible!

Drone-camp

The camp is situated right next to the luxury Hyatt Hotel and the Bhat-Bhateni Super Mall which contrasts hugely with the camp dwellers situation.  We were made to feel very welcome and safe by the friendly people at the camp.  (Spot Pam who’s helping and working with us enjoying Up with the local kids below!)

IMG_1744The generator problem from the first day is solved.  I went back to the Yamaha store and it was a loose connection inside.  We’ve been advised that the generator will just need to be serviced earlier and more often due to the mixing of petrol with turps (black market problems!)

IMG_1737Happy Tihar to you all! xxx

First Screening Success

November 9, 2015

We had our first public screening in Nepal tonight and happy to say it went down well.  We screened in an area called Naya Bazaar which is fairly central in Kathmandu.  The kids were loving the open mic session and impressed us with their beat boxing, rapping and songs.  We screened on a dusty open field that’s used by locals for football, cricket, volley ball, hanging out and setting off fire crackers tonight!

We played about 30 minutes of shorts, and then Jungle Book (in Hindi) which were all well received.  Only problem we had was the generator cutting out a few times.  There’s a good chance that was to do with the quality of the fuel we had to buy on the black market (due to the fuel crisis), which could be mixed down with anything.

Great to be up and running again and creating good vibes.  One highlight of the night was an old man bringing us a bunch of flowers to say thanks, another was standing behind the screen and watching the kids faces.

Thanks to everyone who’s supported, helped, organised, and been involved in getting this off the ground again.  First of many over and looking forward to many more.

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Namaste from Kathmandu

November 5, 2015

So preparations for the team arriving tomorrow are going well.  We’ve been scouting out and arranging locations to screen here in Kathmandu, working with our local team getting the poles made for the screen, buying all sorts of bits and bobs including rope, solar lights, a hammer and even some tennis balls to go on the end of the guide rope pegs!

I’ve been here two weeks so far and am very excited we’ll have the films rolling within a few days.  Everyone we’ve spoken to here is excited and intrigued to have us bringing a bit of cinematic magic into their lives.

Safe travels Scruff, Alex and Dave – see you at the airport.  Here’s a pic of black Kali from Kathmandu Durbar Square the Goddess of Time, Change, Power, Creation, Preservation, and Destruction.
Black Kali

KKP invited to speak at conference in Jersey earlier this year

Hogge and I were invited to speak at a conference set up by the Alliance Française in Jersey during March earlier this year.  We went over for one night, spoke at the conference and were also interviewed live on BBC Jersey.  It was good to revisit our memories of the Haiti trip, especially as we’re now up and running again and heading out to Nepal.

Visit the Alliance Française – Jersey web site.

Talking live on BBC Jersey about our trips to Haiti

Talking live on BBC Jersey about our trips to Haiti

 

Film from 2011 trip

October 9, 2012

I managed to get round to putting a short film about our 2011 trip together – starring Myself, Marko, Alex and a cast of  a 1000 Haitians.  A year in the making, but worth the wait!