Filling in the grid

Our fourth day in the camp, and we start to be known a bit… We get a hug on our arrival from a Utopia volunteer and a big smile from the guys who mapped with us yesterday. Today we brought not only our five gps-devices, but also equipment to get the mapping really started!

We installed our table and chairs and most importantly, the router connected with a solar panel which will provide us with internet connection (thanks Bibliothèques sans Frontières!). While Johan and Blake were setting up our little mapping headquarter, Katja and Jorieke started already to explain to curious refugees what we are doing: make them making a map of their own living environment!

Thanks to work of Jo and Blake the day before, we could print today also our first field papers. With help of the plan made by MSF for the initial construction of the camp, we were able to add the footprints of the shelters and buildings on OpenStreetMap which we subsequently printed in full color with the printer donated to the project by Jo.

Once on site, we started to learn some interested refugees how to map the camp with help of the field papers. It was amazing how fast they learned! “In the north of the camp, you see the highway, and in the South you see the train. Then at the entrance you see the charging center, you know, that place where you go to charge the battery of  your phone when it died.” Those are clear reference points for the refugees which consequently were mapped out the first.

It was a day of running around with gps’s and field papers. We as externals got to know again a bit better the camp, but also the residents learned more about their actual living environment, especially the new arrivals. About 10 new persons arrive every day. For them a map of the camp could be a real asset; to find the adult school, the entrance to the doctors, the mothers and children center, etc.

With three refugee mappers continuously at our side, the setup of our little mapping corner and curious residents all around us, we could say this day was a success!

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Mapping starts!

The Welcome Center turns out to be the a spot designed to get in contact and attract people. We furnished our mapping corner with a foldable table and chairs. Within short time a few curious people approach us, wanting to know more. We show the blank map, talk about potential problems new arrivals and refugees with poor English knowledge face without an adequate map. As we find out, the rapid growth of the camp even challenges long-term refugees.

The field mapping is done in buddy teams of two for efficiency and safety reasons, collecting GPS data on the go. After a short explanation of the device menu and its main functions, we start in the surrounding of the Welcome Center, marking the POI with waypoints and taking notes in order to create a skeleton of the structure. Light Poles serve as points of reference, combined with the data from the main “middle street “ the divide the camp in sections. The teams collect data and information of the entrance and new arrival area which includes the charging place, medical clinic, laundry and petrol distribution point.

The lack of communal spaces, food and NFI distribution points in the backmost, single men part of the camp, where 60% of the camp population lives is obvious. The area is deserted, shelters are not personalized, only few open fires and cooking activities, apparently residents of this area prefer to spend their time in the entrance and family area  as it offers multiple attractive options to interact, play and communicate. This fact may relate to the presence of human traffickers, cigarette smugglers and drug dealers in the back part of the camp, leading to violence, tensions and a feeling of insecurity and threat for the residents in this area. The mafia gang activities and fights occur exclusively during the night, preventing the residents not involved from finding sleep and rest. This results in a reduced ability to participate in camp activities concentrate and organise and adds to already existing mental health issues like PTSD, depression and anxiety.

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