By Bassie Scott
LSR heard that there were refugee minors who had arrived in Nimes last October. We were informed that they badly needed clothes and shoes and that donated supplies in Nimes were fast running out. After a week of collecting, sorting and packing, we were finally able to make the journey.
There are some 70 boys, all staying at two hostels in Nîmes, paid for by the Department. Administrators and Social workers from the department and La Cimade help the boys with their paperwork for asylum and to get to hospital, dentist etc. should they need this.
We met with volunteers of Trampoline, an association set up in November 2016 to help these kids. Together we went to one of the hostels to meet the boys, and to hand out the clothes, shoes etc. These were desperately needed by some who appeared in just flip flops and no socks.
As soon as we arrived the boys crowded around to see what we had. There were kids from Sierra Leone, Mali, Guinea, Darfur, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh, all around 16 or 17 years old. We managed to kit out many of them, but still some went away disappointed. We will collect more and go again!
We also took some footballs. They were absolutely ecstatic and immediately started to kick them around on the grounds of the hostel, a wonderful sight to see.
What I noticed most of all is that they all appeared so very young. I spoke to one Afghan kid of 16, who looked much younger and asked him why he had left his country. He told me both his parents had been killed by the Taliban and his elder brother wanted him to leave Afghanistan as he feared he would be killed as well. He left at the age of 14 to make the perilous journey, finally arriving in France last October.
Trampoline is doing all that they can for these boys with French lessons and other support, but they have limited resources and volunteers at the moment. They are, however, like LSR, going to grow and are looking for more volunteers in Nîmes, particularly those who are willing to organise sport activities with the boys.
These minors do have a roof over their heads and now some warm clothes and shoes. However, they really need to have things to do; they are frustrated, bored and somewhat isolated, something Trampoline is trying to address.
A couple of the boys are playing for local football teams and a few do go to school. When I asked ‘why not all of them?’, the answer was ‘it’s up to the administrator of schools’. I guess it’s difficult to find places for all 70 boys in one go but the hope is that they will get them some kind of education, whether in school or via volunteers/associations and, indeed, the Department.
Some of the boys came into France via Spain, but most arrived via Libya, across the sea to Sicily and onward. Some recounted their perilous journeys, of boats breaking down, some letting in water and life jackets that were useless. It’s incredible that they got to safety but they did. We know that many others lost their lives on these boats. They managed to get from Italy into France, where they ended up in Nice. They were then transferred to Nîmes, where they wait for their papers and, hopefully, a new life in France.
What must be remembered is that these boys have mostly fled war-torn countries, that their parents have either been killed or the families sent their boys away for fear of them either being radicalised or killed. These boys have no family here, no money and no one to give them a hug or share some laughter with them. They are reliant on volunteers and associations, some of whom we know are doing fantastic work.
LSR is currently looking into what can be done and how our Association can help. Should you have any ideas, know anyone in Nîmes who would like to join Trampoline or would like to make a donation, please contact us via our website or our Facebook page. You can also contact me on Facebook (Bassie Scott)