Tent number 6

This was a busy week for us as we moved tents again. This is now our sixth tent in the 12 weeks since Christmas. We started with an old scout tent at the old camp. As that fell apart, we pitched another tent over it, and that gradually ripped apart in the strong winter winds. Then we moved to an old army tent which we stayed in until the camp closed. In the new camp we have now been in two small ‘humanitarian relief’ tents, which are 4x4, and 16 square metre family tents, to be used to house a family each when disaster strikes. By the end of this week we had our sixth tent: a much larger 72 square metre marquee.

We are not sure how exactly the tent came about. On Monday to Wednesday we had so many children that we spilled over into teaching outside in the open air. It isn’t ideal in the open air as paper blows off desks. Although the sun was warmer than it had been previously, there was still a sharp wind. On Wednesday the mayor visited the camp and came to see us. We explained that we were struggling because of the small tent size and that actually being able to get more children into school is an important part of child protection. When the children are in school they are not at risk of accidents or mishap around the camp.

The very next day, on Thursday, a truck drove up and dropped off the larger tent. It isn’t a new tent. It’s the old ‘women and children’s distribution tent’ from the old camp. Neither the mayor’s office, nor Utopia 56 who manage the camp, know how or why the tent has come to us. And at first there was considerable consternation about whether the tent should be erected. Whilst discussions were still going on in the camp about whether the tent could be erected or not, a large group of volunteers turned up and just started putting up the tent. By the time that the decision was communicated to us that the tent should not be put up, it was already up and in use.

As an old tent, it has a considerable number of holes and gashes in it and some posts had to be improvised to replace missing parts. Fortunately several refugees turned up with sewing kits and sat there, literally sewing up holes and then covering them in waterproof tape. When the tent was up, another team of volunteers turned up and started making a solid floor out of pallets and wooden boards.

By the end of the week we had therefore gone from 2 small tents which could accommodate a maximum of about 20 children between them, to a single large tent which can now accommodate up to 50 children at any one time.

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