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!

EYES

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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KKP report from Dunkirk

May 8, 2016

Screening

KKP Report May 1st Owen, Esther & Tom

Sunday PM.  Travel Day.  Drive to Folkestone (3.5 hours). Kipped at friends house.

Monday AM.  Ten minutes to tunnel and into France in good time (add hour time change). We found air B&B close to camp and tunnel.  A small boat. On the intimate side space-wise. Bought supermarket food for day then drove into camp to a recently built school house (two rooms, no heating). Camp comprised of rows of huts (shed-like), showers, loos, tea room, food area and containers, spaced between train lines and mortorway.

We met longer term volunteers gathering children to go on a circus trip organised by mayor. We used the time to set up. Black felt for black-out. Wall as screen. Books as stand for projector. Found translator for posters and put about the camp. We screen Hedgehog in the Fog to a delighted toddler and volunteer.

When the group of children arrived and the room was covered in red balloons they went mental.  Joyful, grabby!  We screen shorts followed by The Red Balloon. One boy, with red balloon, walked into the screen and for a moment his proportions were exactly those of the film and we gasped. After the film, children took their balloons and cycled them around the bleached out and colourless camp – lighting it up. Especially the girls, who are nearly exclusive in red and pink. We finished in the camp by 7.

Tuesday AM.  Arrived at 10.

Screened The Gruffalo and The Snowman.  And then, for a few minutes, it snowed outside. Children ran out. Caught the flakes in their mouths.  An almost hysterical joy. In the chaos the projector fell. Owen fixed quickly and we resumed.

After films the children made masks. Glitter went down very well and they loved replicating images of masks on the packages – especially pirates. Kids face painted the volunteers. Almost violently. There was a nutty sense of the kids taking control over the offerings. A real wildness.

Lunch at 2.30. Back after we showed Sean The Sheep. The children knew the words. Sang along to it and loved the visual storytelling. On request we started Frozen. A volunteer asked for something more ‘male’ and we switched to How to Train your Dragon.  But both were a little too wordy in English and didn’t go down so well (next time can we get a Kurdish dubbed one?).

Wednesday.  Arrive 10.30. A sunnier day and we’re unsure if we’ll get an audience.

Started the morning talking with volunteers who said KKP works for them and children. We spoke about leaving projector now or returning with duplicate (but cheaper) kit and showing them how to use it later. They felt that coming back with a projector, speakers and hard drive of films would be best. Request is we return within a month.

Kids arrive at 11 and watch with glee Chaplin’s The Circus. Its set in a camp. People make fires to cook. Its full of comedy, spectacle and romance. Meanwhile next door we run a workshop making instruments which are brought into screening . We make noises and music. A mum and her babies join us.

After the film kids are taken to a huge bunch of balloons which are let off into the sky. They are not happy.  It happens too fast and so KKP blew up any remaining balloons and the kids played with them until lunch time came.

We ate with volunteers and camp residents. After which Esther went with three girls to fix a bike, Owen spoke with the bike shack their who are short of personal and puncture repair kits (bikes are great in the camp) as Tom looked after kit and made contact with educational team. We spied a football pitch not much used but elsewhere small groups of young men practising football skills. It was a sunny lunch and some people were cooking outside their huts.

As we went back through the camp we now knew many by sight and told them ‘Mr Bean’. Excited kids spread the word. By 3.30 we were back in the school room and had our biggest audience yet. The kids took cushions and chairs and perfectly made their own auditorium. Lots of laughter, clapping and cheering.

* * *

We are told there are 110 children in the camp. We screened to between 20 and 60 at a time. They were not always the same children. Oftentimes it was confusing being in the Dunkirk camp. However, KKP works  – facilitating communal screenings and workshops, giving children, families and volunteers some chance of respite,and sharing in laughter and cinematic dreams.

* * *

Child with balloon The camp Glitter Balloons

Nepal in numbers

March 20, 2016

It looks increasingly unlikely that we will return to Nepal in 2016. Partly this is because we don’t currently have volunteers that are in a position to travel for the length of time that a trip would require. Since the refugee crisis in Europe escalated so terribly last summer we have wanted to bring KKP to camps closer to home, and we are now planning trips to Europe beginning shortly.

Before we turn away from Nepal, at least for now, I wanted to provide some numbers for the month long trip. It’s hard to know exactly what to touch upon so if there’s more detail you’d like to know then please get in touch.

KKP in Nepal – November/December 2015

Days in Nepal 30
Screenings 17
Total audience (estimated) c1000
Films made by children 90
Volunteers in Nepal 3 (+1 for the first week)
Volunteers supporting from home c10
Travel
Flight miles 4666
Driving miles in Nepal (rough estimate) 230
Expenditure
Flights £1100
Living expenses for volunteer team £1650
Driver + vehicle (inc fuel) for screenings £750
Kit (screen + poles, generator, assorted other bits e.g. extensions cords, lanterns etc) £1000
 Total £4500 

Cube Cinema | Jan 21st | “Baal Chalchitra: the Kids Kino Project visits Nepal”

December 21, 2015

In November, after months of planning and fundraising the NKKP team sent four volunteers to Nepal to screen films to children affected by the 2015 earthquakes. We spent a month screening films in camps and villages that were close to the epicentre, and helped children to make films about their lives.

This evening will be a chance to share in that experience with films and footage from the trip, along with news about the future of the Kids Kino Project.

This is a free event but donations will be very welcome!

Get Bhak

December 4, 2015

In Kathmandu we managed to make contact with Clean Up Nepal who have been carrying out surveys of the camps in Bhaktapur, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site around a half hour away from Kathmandu. Bhaktapur was badly damaged by the earthquakes and, despite many people relocating to their home villages, there are still approximately 30-40 camps in the town. With winter approaching fast, the people who are still living in these camps are the ones with nowhere else to go.

Screening at Itachhen

Screening at Itachhen

We make a research trip out to Bhaktapur and are taken around six of the camps by Clean Up Nepal’s camp monitors (Rejina & Soonam). We have time to carry out three more screenings so we select the three camps that have the largest number of children living in them, and are located near to some of the others.

Some of the camps are actually located within the boundary of the UNESCO World Heritage site itself. Toll booths will continue to collect tourist money just outside, whilst these people expect to be living here for the next 2-3 years.

Sano Byasi camp inside the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Bhaktapur

Sano Byasi camp inside the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Bhaktapur

All three screenings are a success, and we hear from the children that our screenings have been creating quite a buzz amongst the kids in the local school. We screen in Sano Byasi, Libali and Itachhen camps.

An armed guard enjoying the show at Itachhen

An armed guard enjoying the show at Itachhen

Few screenings go without some sort of hiccup and at the 2nd camp we visit we come close to brushing with the wrong side of the law. Things are getting tense throughout Nepal with the protests now stretching further into the country from the border, meaning police everywhere are on high alert. Itachhen is located right next to a police station, and although we clear it with the perimeter guard posted just inside the camp, a more senior officer soon appears during the set up and takes quite a lot of convincing that what we are doing is innocent and just for children. With some lengthy explanation and pleading from our wonderful driver and awesome Clean Up Nepal volunteers we are given the green light to continue. We are then graced with the presence of an armed guard hovering nearby for the rest of the evening, but at least he seems to enjoy the films as much as everyone else.

Chuchepati, Chu-chuchepati, slow down kids, you’re gonna hurt somebody

November 30, 2015

A rapt audience at our second Chuchepati screening

A rapt audience at our second Chuchepati screening

We returned to Chuchepati camp the day before we wanted to screen, just to check it was ok, and were greeted enthusiastically by a group of kids who remembered us from our first visit. After meeting one of the teachers there who assured us it would be fine to screen the next day, we were taken on a short tour of the camp by some of the children who wanted to show us their tents – and wanted sweets! Seems Pam’s handing out of lollies after the last screening had set some high expectations, we managed to leave the camp only after assuring the kids we would bring sweets the next day.

A couple of the girls providing pre-screening entertainment

A couple of the girls providing pre-screening entertainment

We had many willing hands helping us set up the next day, everyone was clearly excited to have another screening. A short session of singing and a couple of short films got everyone settled; the audience ranged from 100-150 over the evening, including a large percentage of adults! Under a glorious full moon we screened our favourite programme – The Red Balloon and How to Train Your Dragon – both went down an absolute treat, with the audience in thrall until the very end.

I spent much of the second film in conversation with a woman called Kalpana, who is a similar age to me. She told me a lot about her life before the earthquake, and her feelings about living in the camp – she says she is often hungry and cold, and also scared as sometimes people come into the camp to take drugs. Also that she prefers having a boyfriend to getting married, but if she ever does she wants a big white dress rather than the traditional red Nepali women wear!

Screening under the full moon

Screening under the full moon – you can see Kalpana and I in the foreground

We had a visit from the police during our conversation, though I didn’t realise until they told me afterwards as he was in plain clothes but had a walkie talkie. Apparently he was just checking up on what was happening, and was fine with us just screening, but wanted the women to call him after we had left safely. Kalpana mentioned an incident where some tourists had arrived at the camp and started giving out blankets and food – she didn’t go into specifics but the implication was that it had gotten a little hairy, understandably the police want to avoid further occurrences of this. Giving out the sweets after the screening made us realise how that might happen – the kids went wild, crowding around wanting more and more – if they had been adults it would have been pretty frightening!

We left on a high note though, with a bit of a sentimental goodbye – everyone was asking when we would be back, we were pretty sad to have to tell them we wouldn’t be able to return as we now have plans for screening in Bhaktapur, where there are still upwards of 30 camps spread throughout the city. It was a great evening though, we felt like we’d really made an impact on the people of Chuchepati camp.

Alex surrounded by engrossed kids

Alex surrounded by engrossed kids

Second screening at Chuchepati

Second screening at Chuchepati

Massive moon

Massive moon

Salyantar camp screenings

November 27, 2015

Arriving at Salyantar camp

Arriving at Salyantar camp

While in Dhading we travelled to a camp located just outside the village of Salyantar on top of a very steep hill, overlooked by the majestic peaks of the Himalayas, where we held two screenings four days apart.

Mountain view - we think maybe Himalchuli in the Manaslu range

Mountain view – we think Himalchuli in the Manaslu range

The people camped here came from a village that was wiped out by the earthquake. It is a day and a half walk from their old village and they don’t know how long they will be here.

Salyantar kids

Salyantar kids

We are told that most of them have never had TV’s and many had never seen a film. We played The Red Balloon and How To Train Your Dragon (Hindi language version) as a double bill for the first time, with children and adults alike absolutely loving it. Toothless the dragon reminds me of my cat, who I miss greatly, so I spent much of the screening hiding in my hoodie so no-one could see me cry.

First Salyantar screening

First Salyantar screening

For the first time on this trip, we saw children literally fighting off their parents in order to stay until the very end. It was magical.

Click the thumbnails for more…

From the Valley #1

November 26, 2015

Now that we’re safely back in Kathmandu, here’s the first of our back-log of updates from our time in the Dhading region. A lot happened, with 6.5 screenings and 2 workshops conducted in 7 days throughout 4 different communities as well as hikes, swims and plenty of spider watching.

Showing the Red Balloon at our second Sukaura screening

Showing the Red Balloon at our second Sukaura screening

Here’s a look at our work in the two schools in the largest communities we visited, Khahare and Sukaura. We conducted filmmaking workshops in both schools, as well as two screenings in each, although the first screening at Khahare school was a small screening inside a classroom, showing just a few shorts plus the films that the students had made earlier that day.

Sukaura students interviewing the most enthusiastic headmaster in the world

Sukaura students interviewing the most enthusiastic headmaster in the world

We kicked things off in Sukaura school with workshops for about 30 kids, split into 3 groups, with each group being given a camera to work with. We set them a list of topics to make short films/interviews on:

  • Tell us a joke or a funny story
  • Tell us about the day the earthquake struck
  • Show us around your school
  • How is your life different now compared to before the earthquake?
  • What are your dreams for the future?

After a bit of help with translation the kids ran off excitedly to make their films, while we set about preparing for that evening’s screening. When the workshop time was up we hurried home for a quick spell of editing to sort through the films and select the best to screen back to the kids that night before our chosen feature, The Jungle Book.

Screening The Jungle Book at Sukaura School

Screening The Jungle Book at Sukaura School

We returned to Sukaura a few days later for a second screening, this time playing The Red Balloon and How To Train Your Dragon.

On our last evening in the valley we had our second screening at Khahare on a grander outdoor scale, screening the epic (2 hrs :40!) and wonderful Taare Zameen Par.

Epic view of our screening in Khahare

Epic view of our screening in Khahare

More photos from Sukaura and Khahare… it was hard to choose just a few! Click the thumbnails for the full picture, with notes.

The Bare Necessities

November 15, 2015

We’ve had a quiet couple of days on the screening front as today we leave for the villages in Dhading – most of our time has been spent running around Kathmandu getting all the things we need to take with us, and waiting patiently to hear if Shital (who is helping us with many things here) was able to acquire us enough fuel for the trip. He was successful so we leave in a couple of hours for a 7 hour jeep journey, mostly off road – made the mistake of looking at a map of the route, unsurprisingly it is very very windy! It’s also fairly remote, so internet does not exist – you might not hear much from us for a couple of weeks, though we will be trying to send text updates to the home team.

We did have a bit of time out on Friday, Shital invited us to attend his family’s Bhai Tika ceremony, for the last day of Tihar festival. The ceremony celebrates the brother-sister relationship (or similar, so cousins count, and for us, so do friends!) – sisters travel to be with their brothers, blessing them with seven colours of tika powder on their foreheads then placing malas (flower garlands) around their necks and giving them small gifts of money, in thanks for their protection. The brothers do the same in return for each sister, then everyone receives a plate of treats – felt a bit like a Christmas stocking – before all sharing a meal of dhal bat, traditional Nepalese food. It was pretty special to be allowed such a glimpse into Nepalese culture.

Malas and the tray of tika colours ready for the ceremony

Malas and the tray of tika colours ready for the ceremony

Traditional Bhai Tika treats

Traditional Bhai Tika treats

Alex, Dave and Scruff after the Bhai Tika ceremony

Alex, Dave and Scruff after the Bhai Tika ceremony