Another video. Another click. Another post. Another bombing. Another child. Another mother. Another brother. Another person. Another death.
This year we have seen an abundance of horrifyingly disturbing images in which we have witnessed fellow humans lose everything… their homes, their friends, their families… themselves.. Because of social media, we get to see the atrocities that happen around the world. Everyone can post a video and a cry for help can actually be heard… potentially. The war in Syria, which is the product of decades worth of poor political manoeuvring, megalomania, cultural turmoil and of course western interest, has stripped millions of their livelihoods whilst stolen hundreds of thousands of lives. And while this war continues and worsens, other countries follow closely in the fate of Syria. Taliban and Daesh torture, control and conflict in Afghanistan, ethnic cleansing and genocide in Sudan, civil war and near famine in Yemen, corrupt government control and underage militancy in Eritrea and Ethiopia.
For those of you who don’t know, in September I started volunteering at the Calais Jungle; the recently demolished refugee camp. There I met my brothers and sisters, fellow volunteers and refugees alike. My Jungle family. Some of the most beautiful souls that I’ve had the privilege to meet. While the organisation I was with (Utopia 56) predominantly took responsibility of cleaning the camp, we also cooked food and taught french and english. Other organisations took care of countless other jobs in order to maintain the camp, adjusting to its constantly altering needs, and when deemed necessary organisations would share the workload. All this mostly due to the fact that the NGOs were the only ones keeping that place alive, keeping people warm and fed, providing them with aid, clothes, a little humanity…while the government would just send their CRS (french riot police) armed with teargas, batts and a ‘fuck you’ attitude, ready to strike when the Afghans would play football against the Sudanese… Teargas, everywhere. Everyday. When cleaning I lost count of the canisters once it hit triple digit. But despite all this, despite the misery and trauma, they would still play football. They would still dance, they would still laugh and smile… they would still have hope. Even after traveling here on foot for 4 months non stop, or crossing the Mediterranean in a frighteningly overcrowded boat through storms, to arrive to a Europe which views them as cockroaches, infestations… dirt. Condemned. But they are a very forgiving people. The most outstanding thing was their copious generosity and sense of community. They radiated it, despite the appalling living conditions of the camp. They learned to live in harmony with one another, despite their cultural, or religious differences. Yes there were conflicts and there was crime, but you can find these aspects in any small town, because that is what the Jungle was, a community of 10,000-11,000 people, Europe’s biggest slum, a humanitarian crisis endorsed by our governments. No one wanted to live there, no human being would, but like a fellow volunteer has expressed before, we all had each other in times of extreme hardship, and that is what allowed the beauty of unity to flourish in this little piece of hell on Earth. The countless amounts of times they would share their food with us, or invite us to their tiny tent for some ridiculously sweet tea, because we’d been cleaning for 9 hours… And despite the fact that these people are fleeing their war torn, broken countries their cultures are so incredibly welcoming.. something that we are lacking terribly in a lot of the western world. My dear, dear friends.. how I cherish every single one of you and miss your big smiles and friendly morning greetings.
I was brought up in a family who taught me the value of caring. I was taught how to accept and see all people as equals, no matter their origin. However, my whole life I focused on music. It was the alpha and the omega of my existence, my only passion. It was one of the few things that made sense to me and gave me worth, satisfaction and happiness. But after watching countless of those terrible videos of war torn Syria and after many angry, preachy posts on my side regarding the issue, I decided I couldn’t be a spectator or a commentator anymore… I had to become an active participant. For a while, I found myself questioning the amount of time I was donating out of my life on this new direction, as well as how much of myself I was giving away. And so my ego got threatened… “But what about music? What about your future?!”… these thoughts hovered around for a while, till I realised how silly they were. Music is as much of a part of me as humanitarianism is. I just didn’t know it. Working with refugees has opened up a whole new world, and in it I have found a limitless crave and passion to help others. I only wish there was more I could do to help them at this time. And as for music, it will just have to learn to accommodate the above, and it already is.
Other than a very soul-satisfying and beneficial experience, these past few months have proven to be an extreme existential roller coaster, consisted of intense emotional breakdowns, as well as moments of sheer happiness. And overall, definite perspective has been gained, as well as an in-depth look into what a corrupt system we have created, and the intentions of those governing us. And if we continue to find refuge in our privileged comfort, the more of a sedated and disconnected society we will become.. but we can do better than that. I know we can, right to my core I do… What can I say, I still try to be an optimist. So lets be more active, lets be more selfless and honestly become the change we wish to see in the world.
Thank you to my family and close special people who have been compassionate understanding during the past few months.
Thank you to all my fellow volunteers for being there. Love you cos you were there, love you cos you’re out there.
– Chloe Boleti
This post originally appeared as a Facebook note titled: “To Whom It May Concern.”
Chloe Boleti is a London based music artist performing under moniker Aphty Khea. Creation of this specific artistic identity has arised out of the search for new form of expression that combines music and visual art. In her own words: “[it] was ‘conceived’ out of my exhaustion and boredom with today’s somewhat monotonous music industry.” Chloe has been part of numerous music acts on London scene where she studied songwriting at the The Institute of Contemporary Music Performance.