Monday, 30 March 2015

Reflections on Kakuma Refugee Camp

It’s now  just over a week since we returned from Kakuma refugee camp. It’s been a harrowing time due to family circumstances but it has also really made me think. We had Tommy for the day yesterday and despite the challenges that he has to face with his little arm he also has to have an operation on his hips which will result in him being in plaster BUT we are so lucky – he is seen by medical professionals, his care is covered by the NHS, he is surrounded by support. Mum is now in a residential dementia care unit but again, her every need is catered for.
Last week I saw children who didn’t have material possessions, many didn’t have parents around as they had been ‘sent on’ to Kakuma as unaccompanied minors. I did however, see lots of children who were loved, they might have been hungry, dirty and without shoes but there was evidence of real love.
I saw a young teacher sit with a very small child asleep next to him as she was lost and didn’t know how to get back to her mother.I think that one of the hardest things as a parent or grandparent is to be unable – never unwilling, just desperately unable to provide what your children need. We saw a woman battling the authorities to get her children into a school, we saw a child with ‘my first bag’ which broke my heart as it was torn and dirty but had the words ‘my first bag’ written in felt pen. We saw children begging for water, waiting in line for a cup of watery porridge.  Don’t get me wrong I’m not criticising these parents or the NGOs working with them – far from it – I’m in total awe of their resilience and the love that is show. BUT no one  – should have to live like they do –  it’s cruel. Not to mention those children who are ‘unaccompanied’.

It’s impossible to sum up the harsh realities of life in a refugee camp, all that they have is each other and hope. The day to day struggle with everything they have to face is one that is impossible to describe. Imagine if this was your walk to school everyday.

I’m not apologising for yet again asking for your support – these people need it. If you can spare just a couple of pounds we can build another classroom – we have £3800 but need £5200 – we will keep working for this and welcome any support. (link to Just giving site below) I’m happy to work with schools, talk in assemblies, send you images – we just need to do something. We aren’t asking for huge donations just a couple of pounds will help. Thank you to all of you who have already supported us. I will have a stall selling postcards and images at The Barnsley Teaching and Learning Festival at Darton College on 13th April so hope to see some of you there.

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Dementia Diaries update

Today marked a turning point for us as a family. Mum is in the later stages of Alzheimer’s and we finally had to move her to a residential care home. Dad is 80 and not physically capable of looking after mum anymore. She can no longer do anything for herself including standing up, feeding herself or making decisions of any kind.  Dad is emotionally exhausted and cries constantly.
The decision wasn’t taken lightly and was difficult to implement but had to be done. The home is clean and comfortable, the staff friendly and efficient but I wasn’t quite ready to be discussing ‘Do not resuscitate’ orders alongside giving permission for a ‘ safety gate’ to be applied to her room.
My brother and I struggled to hold it together whilst dad cried, mum became agitated and asked to be taken home, other residents wandered, shouted, played with dolls, argued – the whole of life is here.
I saw suffering last week in Kakuma refugee camp, I saw suffering this morning in a dementia care unit in Barnsley. Everyone has their pain – remember that and be kind to people, do what you can. My grandmother always said ‘A little bit of help is worth a lot of pity.’ Do what you can to make life easier for others, sometimes your help is the one thing that will make a difference to another person.