Sammy Says: I’m Going to Try to Do Something

Rowan and I at the protest in Edinburgh, Summer 2016
Rowan and I at the Protest Against the Racist SDL in Edinburgh, Summer 2016
Photo by Morag Wells


It’s the night before I set off to Calais by way of Dover. As I’ve said, which is all there is to say, I’m nervous and excited, but mostly nervous. I’ve been telling my colleagues that I am going on an adventure. It feels like one. I feel I’m on a quest to find out the truth, what is actually happening in Calais and to found out how I can help.

I’ve read articles, I’ve heard stories, and I’ve watched videos, but to be there, to be in Calais.

I first heard about Calais in my fourth year at St Andrews. Protected by my university bubble, I studied, partied, and slept. While I knew something bad was going on in the world, I didn’t know what. I chose to ignore the news. I thought, currently, I am studying the past, when I graduate I will live in the present. I was preparing for the moment, but I was just a student. It didn’t feel it was my turn.

Then, I saw a Facebook event about a student who volunteered in Calais, and was arranging a group trip to volunteer again. I clicked ‘going’.

A few days later, I squeezed into the Byre Theatre to hear him speak. I couldn’t take my eyes off him – a beautiful sadness, and yet, such strength. There were people in Calais who squatted in filth and dreamed in hunger hoping to make Britain their home, to find security, love, and happiness. They were being kicked by cops, hit by cars, and murdered by politics.

It was the same feeling when I was told that my friend tried to commit suicide, the center of the universe returned. That nothing else matters, everything else is society’s black feather boa around your neck, ticking your ears.

“I’m organizing a trip this Christmas break, please sign up here. I’ll be here after, ask me any questions.” I itched behind my ear, and signed up.

I didn’t go in the end. It was only going to be for a day anyway, and I didn’t see the point of spending $100 just to volunteer for 24 hours. Wouldn’t it be better to donate the money instead?

Instead of going to Calais, my friend Nicole and I organized a fundraiser with the Fine Food and Dining Society and University of St Andrews School of Modern Languages. We raised $500 to donate to L’Auberge des Migrants. That was two years ago.

On Saturday, I will volunteer with L’Auberge de Migrants / Help Refugees in Calais and I will try to do something.