Before, during and after our stay in Grande-Synthe we were asked if there were official requests for mapping activities from stakeholders like NGOs or charities, if we were able to make bonds with them while on site, including options for further collaboration. Yes, we met stakeholders and yes, we made bonds and collaboration is already happening. But the decision makers we mostly interacted with were the camp residents themselves, be it in organised bodies, our mapfugee team members or individuals. They were our most important contacts and collaborators, their support was crucial for a successful and efficent work. Of course, talking to charitable organisations and NGO was part of networking and although important this served more as an additional source of information and input. This is in parts due to the informal situation of the camp which subsequently fosters grassroot structures and self-organisation. Nonetheless the reception of refugee communities as equal partners, take into account their needs and demands, interact with them like any other civil society stakeholders appears to be of crucial importance and needs to be more implemented in humanitarian work. There is not always the place and time to do that, vulnerable persons on their journey or living in miserable conditions might have other needs and demands. But as soon as there is a chance to involve them in the process of improving living conditions, better management and outreach to vulnerable and disregarded individuals, it must be done. They are actors from the beginning on and this has to be acknowledged.
A refugee co-mapper gives feedback on our work
Request from the refugee council for a directions map on facebook (via Beshwar)
The mapping activities in the camps will continue. It won´t be easy. communication and coordination is challenging, there are misunderstandings. The main problem is the lack of equipment, continous training and recruitment of new mappers. We need support on various levels, donations to our crowdfunding campaign are very welcome of course, but providing second hand items like laptop, tablet, GPS devices, batteries and mice, financing new printed maps and guides for hand-out are of equal importance. Another way to get involved is presence on site: support camp mappers, help with training, interaction with the refugee community and organisations. More topics like connectivity, electricity, mapping apps, map styles are discussed on our mailing list , this is an opportunity to contribute remotely.
After two weeks of challenges and valuable experiences we are able to present the printed DIN A1 maps at the Refugee Welcome Center. We attach them visibly at this prominent and popular space, where they immediately attract the attention of residents and volunteers passing by. Especially the surroundings map causes a lot of interest and leads to discussions and inqueries. And of course, besides positive response we also get suggestions and critical remarks, which features and names are missing and what should be improved in the rendering.
Small format maps are distributed to the refugee council that will use them to manage the distribution of residents to shelters, and to Utopia56, the association that runs the camp and offered us kind support (and chairs!) during the time of our stay. The translation of the map content to Kurdish and Arabic has been done by our refugee team members. As soon as we have resources these multilanguage maps will be printed and made available to the camp residents.
To finalize and produce printed maps was one of our main deliverable in this project, and we can say we have met this goal, although there are still improvements and refinements needed. But there is now a basemap of the camp and its surroundings that can be built upon and used for various causes: orientation and finding directions for new arrivals and volunteers, better contingency planning for associations and NGOs, communication and interaction within the camp community as fostered by the refugee council.
Equally important as the provision of accurate and useful camp maps was the training and interaction with the camp residents. We met persons with differing professional background and educational levels, some immediately understood the techniques and procedure of mapping and were able to edit and clean the data independently after a short while, while others preferred to simply go out with fieldpapers and a GPS to collect waypoints and traces. Some joined us only for a few hours, others came nearly everyday. But everyone showed curiosity, open-mindedness and ambition and was eager to transfer the knowledge about their living conditions to an offline and online available map. It was a joy to see their reaction to the many possibilities OpenStreetMap offers, it was hard for them to believe they actually could add to this worldwide database.
All map files and the bus guide are available for download as pdf and png here