Note: This post has been written to spread some news about what is happening in Choucha’s camp at the tunisian-lybian borders after a short stay there.
I decided to go to Choucha’s camp after receiving an event invitation on Facebook from the Tunisian Red Crescent asking for volunteers. On a Friday we (me and 5 of my friends) went to the downtown and we took the bus for a 3 days trip: Day 1 : Tunis-Djerba. Day 2 : Djerba-Choucha’s Camp, Choucha’s Camp - Ras-Jdir, Ras-Jdir - Djerba. Day 3 : Djerba-Tunis
With some delay, the bus took the road for Djerba where we arrived after 8 hours trip at 4 a.m (many breaks). We discovered our Hotel: a-4-stars, Sidi Mansour. Organizers explained briefly the program for the day after, a short night was waiting for us.
Tough wake up after 4 hours sleep, we took our breakfast and we had a meeting in the hotel’s lobby with Mr. Sofiene Kallel, a Red Crescent doctor as he was the coordinator of the initiative. He introduced the operation and divided us into groups. Each group has some tasks to carry out mainly Kitchen, Moving out the Military hospital and cleaning this was our day’s program.
Once again, we took the bus to Choucha’s camp this time (2h30 from Djerba). On our way, we crossed Ben Guerdane that just weeks before was living on the traffic between Tunisia and Lybia. Today, the city looks like a Western-movie-town with its closed shops and crowded cafés. When we reached the camp, the view was like coming from a TV report. In the middle of desertic area, 15 Kms from the borders, on a military zone, thousands of tents were there, out of sight. The day was a bit windy and those who know deserts know sandstorms which were almost the case.
Our team that was responsible of the hospital relocation went straight below the Tunisian flag at the entry of the camp where army was settled near to IOM tents and of course the Red Crescent. The coordinator told us that we will be waiting for instructions from army regarding the new location of the hospital which will take one hour; meanwhile we will be cleaning the area around.
The job was apparently easy but when you start grabbing shit (yes :s) and ridding blankets and other stuff that stink it gets really tough to continue but we did continue.
After dozens of trash bags collected, once again we gathered around the flag and we received the instruction regarding the relocation of the military hospital. Basically, as the camp is expanding, the hospital should be moved away to keep it always eccentric. It’s all about 200 meters. We started moving mattresses, boxes, meds…the military around were complimenting us, as some of them were taking a break.
The coordinator interrupted the operations to ask for 5 beefy volunteers. Without knowing the reason, the guys I came with and I volunteered for the mission. And here we are stuck and blocked in the rear box of a commercial vehicle where we took our lunch on our way to the warehouse.
The mission was to move the donations received from a warehouse to another, as the owner heard that the Red Crescent is getting a lot of money, he asked for 17,000 dnt (9000 € monthly rental) so the TRC decided to look for another warehouse, whom owner will be less opportunistic and they found. Thus, we had to move out +6 tons of donations: Tunisian, Russian and American. It was quiet funny to see Russian boxes nearby American USAID :).
By the end of our hard day, the coordinator decided to reward us by taking the group to see the border and how people are crossing it. On our way, we saw the Emirati camp, the Italian one and the TRC volunteers’ camp, this latter will receive volunteers coming for a week stay. Once at the borders we talked with the responsibles there who are welcoming the comers. They told us that verbal altercations may happen between Tunisian and Libyan customs’ officers, which remind me Pakistani-Indian border or North-South Koreas one! Very Sad!
That was Day 2. Very intensive, isn’t?
We tried to recover during the night after long and tiring day 2. In the morning, we took quickly our breakfast. After a short briefing, the bus drove us to Djerba International Airport where refugees were evacuated to their countries. As usual, we were dispatched to do some specific tasks mainly cleaning. Our team has in charge the 7 stairs of the airport that we had to disinfect and clean. We thought it would be easy but unfortunately for us the stairs were not small ones.
The operation was under the supervision of the Red Cross/Red Crescent commission which gave us all the needed materials. The whole group cleaned up the airport and rid the blankets/mattresses and forgotten baggage; we also served the meals to the refugees waiting for their flights.
At 3 p.m. we finished our tasks, we took a group picture. Our bus was waiting to take us back to Tunis.
It may look easy to summarize events we lived during this week-end but I couldn’t summarize the feelings we had, a strange mix: sympathy, pride, compassion, perplexity…That’s why we decided that we have to return soon to the camp to witness and help those who didn’t ask for what is happening to them. God Bless Them, God Bless Lybia and God Bless Tunisia!
A talk we had with some refugees about their conditions (poor sound quality)
Cold War in between
Sudanese boy with his mum