Weekly update for Baloo’s Youth Centre

The last week has been fantastic. No major issues and everyone in good spirits despite the young people upping their attempts to reach the UK.

On Wednesday we held a mini-Olympics for the boys that involved a tug of war, the long jump, a shot put, and a 100m sprint. Having played football on Monday and cricket last week, we wanted to appeal to some of the boys less interested in sports. The result was rather entertaining yet a great success! Tug of war ended up with everyone in a heap rolling around laughing and the 100m sprint was restarted numerous times due to various false starts.

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All week, we have continued with the use of art as a therapeutic outlet for any negative energy and it is continuously successful. One example of this was on Tuesday where two boys were arguing and instead of escalating the situation one boy took himself off to the corner of the room and started to paint in an effort to control his emotions.

The power of painting has calmed even the most erratic and volatile boys. For the past two weeks we have been very fortunate to have Sue, a UK artist, who has held daily workshops in the Youth Centre. Using a variety of different styles and paint, the end result can be witnessed below. The boys have decorated the entire north-facing wall with beautiful images that have special meanings to each individual child giving them a sense of ownership over the building. Looking at the paintings has a rather powerful effect as you can see both the childish innocence in them and yet also the forced maturity that this journey has had.

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Aside from the Youth Centre, our outreach programme is back up to speed. This enables us to track and monitor the 12 – 18 year olds in camp and ensure they are safe and emotionally stable. It is essential we continuously check up on the boys each week, as it is so easy for them to slip under the radar. The importance of this work was made clear when one boy disappeared over the past few days and because of our tracking we were able to discover this quickly and sound the alarm bells to the correct organisations.

Finally, a large part of our work is acting as an intermediary between specialist organisations and the 12 – 18 year olds in camp in order to give them the best support available. An MSF psychologist joins us at the Youth Centre three times a week to get to know the boys and offers one-to- one support for those who desire it. France Terre d’Asile, the French asylum organisation for minors, are joining us once a week as of Monday to build a rapport with the boys and to explain in a child friendly language the asylum process and the best options available to them. Finally, we are aiding Safe Passage and Citizens UK in matters regarding family reunification. It is extremely rewarding for us as staff members to connect the boys to these organisations as it improves their wellbeing and helps them get out of the Jungle in a safe and secure manner. This was seen this week when three of our boys said goodbye to the Jungle and claimed asylum in France. They can now go back to school and continue on with their lives. We wish them the best and have plans to see them soon to check up on them and make sure they are happy and safe.