Baloo’s is a youth centre and project supporting the estimated 500 + young people who are living in the refugee camp in Calais. The jungle is a difficult and harsh place to live for people of any age but as you can imagine young boys from 8 and above are particularly vulnerable. A large majority of these young boys arrive to the camp unaccompanied, leaving them to have to attempt to access safe services and facilities on there own. Baloo’s basic aim is to give an open space where young people are able to connect with others of the same age, have secure shelter and sufficient clothing.
The project was first set up in October 2015 and is steadily growing and branching out to make sure all young people know that Baloo’s is somewhere safe and fun. The boys that currently use the youth centre enjoy it as a place to socialise and play games as well as providing to their basic needs. Baloo’s feeds the young people once a day with a delicious nutritious meal provided by The Refugee Community Kitchen and also provides their clothing and shelter needs through connecting with other charities such as l’Auberge Des Migrants.
The project also enables the young people to build trusting relationships with long term volunteers who are there to help and support them. as well as building relationships and interacting with others there own age which ultimately improves their safety on the camp. The volunteers can also make sure these vulnerable young people are tracked and monitored for their own safety. We are currently tracking over 95 minors aged 12-18, a number that is increasing daily.
We have a timetable of things for the young people to come and do, we play sports 3x a week including cricket and football which proves very popular and helps to bring normality and fun back into the boys lives. There are other activities available as well, we have a table football and arts and crafts as well as puzzles and books and more! We are also building a relationship with the local library ‘Jungle Books’, to promote education amongst these young people with a focus on English as a second language.