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NYU London Student on Volunteering – Changing Hearts and Minds in Calais

This reflection comes from NYU London student Destiny Gallegos, who shares her experiences during the joint NYU London and NYU Paris volunteer trip to Calais and Dunkirk.

What better way is there to start the best month of the year in France doing something that matters for people who need it? That’s exactly how I spent the first and second of December during the Calais Volunteer Trip to assist Help Refugees in their efforts to provide the refugees in Calais with provisions they so desperately need. There was plenty of sorting and cooking and loving happening at the warehouse those two days.

Admittedly, before going on this trip I did not know as much about the whole situation in France with the refugee crisis as I do now after the trip. It wasn’t until our debriefing upon arrival at the warehouse that I learned how awful the refugees have it in Calais. From sleepless nights and severe police brutality to their tents being slashed and them and everything they own being sprayed in teargas to suffering through endless days and nights in the miserable, wet weather — the refugees need any bit of help they can get. All of this appalls me. I couldn’t have been happier to be there helping this organization give these people some hope and kindness each day.

For both days I was on kitchen duty. I volunteered with amazing English and French people who were running the Refugee Community Kitchen (RCK) and even had the opportunity to mingle with and work alongside students from NYU Paris. The people behind RCK were so unbelievably devoted and made the hard work we did enjoyable. There was music. There was dancing. There were jokes and giggles. All of the people in charge went out of their way to make us feel comfortable and happy while we were working for them. They also fed us some really yummy (and VEGAN!) lunches that warmed us up after spending hours in 1°C weather. Good food, good company, and good work for a good cause? I wouldn’t even have to think twice about signing up for this trip again if there was a second, third, or fourth opportunity to do it.

Some of my tasks included washing and drying a seemingly endless mountain of dishes, opening gigantic cans of this and that, cutting, chopping and peeling various vegetables, and trying my hardest to stop the tears from escaping my eyes as I dealt with onions. When I wanted a different task, all I need do was ask the people in charge and they automatically had something else for me to do. It was definitely a hustle-and-bustle environment in the kitchen at all times because RCK provides lunch and dinner to the refugees in The Jungle (the area in the forests where the refugees congregate) every day. Everyone was aware at all times of the urgency and importance it was to have the food done and ready for distribution on time because we knew how hungry and cold the refugees must have been if we ourselves were shivering with our coats and hats and scarves surrounded by stoves of boiling foods. There were a few times when I became rather upset and bothered with myself and others because we commented (even complained) about how cold we were when we didn’t even have it nearly as bad as the refugees do day and night on end.  

For the night we stayed in a French hotel in Dunkirk. It had heat, warm water, and comfortable beds. That in itself was more than the refugees have and I went to bed that night counting my blessings for things that I before considered to be givens in my life that would actually be luxuries to others. It’s saddening to know that I live in a world where some people can have so much while others have nothing, not even the treatment of human decency.

To say this trip was humbling is an understatement. Not only did it make me really see how privileged I actually am, but it challenged me to want to use that privilege to benefit people who do not and never will have it as easy as I do in life. It was beautiful to see so many people wholeheartedly committed day in and day out to show the refugees that they matter and that they have not been forgotten. I’ve done some charity work in the past, and while all my experiences have affected me in one way or another, I have never felt as touched as I do after having worked with Help Refugees and Refugee Community Kitchen. The greatest takeaway I have from this trip is how easy and meaningful it is to make a difference when you’re in a position to do so.

My only complaint is that I, and everyone else from NYU, felt that we could have done more volunteering. Hopefully the next time this trip rolls around, NYU will make it a full weekend commitment. It was more than worth the £50, wearing Crocs all day in the kitchen, and the newly acquired permanent stench of onions on my hands that won’t go away despite numerous washes and showers. If you want to take a part in something that matters and have fun whilst promoting humanitarian greatness, the Calais trip is for you. The hotel being in Dunkirk was also nice because it was a 10-15 minute walk away from the beach of Mal-les-Bains. I woke up really early the second day of the trip and went to the beach after breakfast to watch the sun rise before we headed back to Calais for more volunteering.

It’s not every day that you get to have experiences that touch the core of your humanity and leave an imprint on all of your values, so if the chance to work with Help Refugees ever crosses your path, you MUST do it. But if you aren’t physically able to help the cause, then please donate. Any amount of money you give can help make the difference that these people need. It’s been said time and time again but only because it’s so true– I’ve witnessed it firsthand. Be one of the reasons a refugee finds the strength to not give up hope.

 

The original post can be found on the NYU London volunteers blog here.

NYU Paris Hosts Conference: Rouch in the USA

On November 9, NYU Paris will host a conference entitled Rouch in the USA. This year marks the centenary of the birth of the French ethnographic filmmaker, Jean Rouch. Founder of the cinéma-vérité movement and pioneer of techniques such as “shared anthropology” and “ethno-fiction,” Rouch not only re-defined the landscape of anthropology and cinema in France during the 1950s and sixties, he helped transform Post-Independence African cinema and documentary film practice, writ large. Having made upwards of one hundred films with countless collaborators over the course of a career that spanned six decades and several continents, the story of his complex legacy is just beginning to unfold.

Rouch in the USA aims to trace the contours of Rouch’s influence on American thinkers and filmmakers. Whether through his work with students and faculty at summer workshops on the East Coast (where he taught alongside such pioneering figures as Ricky Leacock and John Marshall), his invaluable presence at the now legendary Flaherty Seminars, or his lasting impact on scholars and artists working in the U.S., it has long been recognized that Rouch’s work has been embraced and taken up in the American context in ways that are wholly unique.

An integral part of the centenary edition of the annual Festival International Jean Rouch, the event is co-sponsored by the Comité du Film Ethnographique and has been made possible by the generous support of the Office of the Provost’s Global Research Initiatives at New York UniversityNYU Paris, the NYU Center for the HumanitiesThe Gallatin School of Individualized Study, and the Center for Media, Culture and History at NYU. Rouch in the USA will also coincide with several centenary events taking place in Paris this fall, including two major Rouch exhibits at the Musée de l’Homme and the Bibliothèque Nationale de Paris.

Organized by Beth Epstein (NYU Paris), Faye Ginsburg (Department of Anthropology, NYU), & Jamie Berthe (The Gallatin School, NYU).

NYU London Student Reflects on Volunteering in Calais Refugee Camp

Austin Basallo, a Gallatin senior studying philosophy, studied abroad in Spring 2016 as a sophomore. While there, he participated in a volunteer trip to the Calais refugee camp. The trip involved students from both NYU London and NYU Paris and was both illuminating and intense for all involve. Austin reflects upon his experience for us:

I did not appreciate the gravity of the situation NYU London was signing me up for. It was a simple email invitation, like so many others, offering abroad students another extracurricular chance to do something “neat,” and for free, in another country. When we boarded the coach parked parallel to Coram’s fields I had little idea how we were getting to France, nor what I’d be doing. It was until a few hours later when our vehicle entered a train which ran through a tunnel to the coast of France that it dawned upon me: I was in a very different place.

Once we exited the train, we drove on a long dirt road along the coast. To our right, the small town of Calias. To our left, a chain wire fence separating us from an appalling site: an endless ocean of tents—rags really. Blues, reds, orange, tattered, high up, down low, and all dirty. All belonging to the refugee camp. We were brought to an isolated warehouse, surrounded by greenery, a quasi-secret base of operations. We actually were at a refugee distribution center, a joint effort ran by Help Refugees and L’auberge des Migrants, two refugee aid organizations.

The moment we hopped out of the coach we were given forms indicating that we would not take photos advertising the location nor would we be handing out this sensitive information once we left. Quasi-base was turning into actual base. I was beginning to experience firsthand just how charged the subject of refugees, and more controversially helping them, was in Europe.

Once signed and handed off, we were guided into the distribution center. Divided into three main sections, the warehouse was home to the three essentials for any human’s survival: food, clothing, and shelter. The food for feeding, the clothing for warming, and the shelter for protecting. All things the refugees were fighting for. Each section had its own system of packaging and sending out their specific materials.

I was assigned to the food section, experiencing firsthand how efficiently 10 people could assemble “care packages” of food. The system was based around packaging boxes based on family size. For a family of ten: 2 liters of oil, 5 kg of rice, 4 cans of beans, etc. Hopefully, enough food to last the recipients a week. Surrounded by industrials racks holding large reserves of food, a collection of tables had bins filled with all of the supplies required. Warm folk music turns on, and people get moving. The veteran volunteers run laps around the newbies, deftly filling up box after box with a variety of food items, knowing that the rice stacks well with the beans but not the oil, and sugar and spices always go at the top so the bags aren’t damaged and the contents spilled. But as time passes, the newcomers find their stride and began filling up boxes just as quickly and effectively. Not much talking happens, everyone is laser-focused on filling up the boxes, as though if lives depended on it. I only realized later that lives did, and continue to, depend on it. Within hours, some two hundred boxes were packaged and ready to be delivered.

After all of this work, lunch time came about and the community of volunteers came together to break bread. All walks of life were present. An old French pair, chatting while eating lentil soup. Several groups of students from both NYU London and NYU Paris, exchanging their experiences abroad. World travelers, people who can’t stop moving but help everywhere they can along the way. A gypsy couple tattooed from head-to-toe with ornate dreadlocks. The environment was so peaceful, removed from all of the politicking about the refugee crisis. These were just people who wanted to help. From the moment I entered the warehouse, I felt like I was a part of a community. A community of helpers, working towards something greater than all of us individually. It did not matter where we came from, or where we were going—the problems of the refugee were so great we all wanted to do something about it, even if only for a moment.

The day was coming to a close. Packages had been sealed, clothes organized, and the warehouse a little tidier than when we found it. We said our goodbyes to newfound friends, walked out of the warehouse, and boarded the coach. On our way back to London, I just began realizing that the experience had been surreal. I accidentally became part of movement that is rocking a continent. The implications are huge, brining in questions of human rights, national sovereignty, and international politics. These controversies played out in my head, inundating me into a deep sleep. A few hours later, I found myself waking up in Bloomsbury. I’m still not sure if I ever left.

NYU Paris Professor Gives Reading- The Pirate Who Does Not Know the Value of Pi

On 2 May, Eugene Ostashevsky, poet, translator, and NYU professor, will discuss The Pirate Who Does Not Know the Value of Pi, his poetry novel about communication challenges in a relationship between a pirate and a parrot who are shipwrecked on a deserted island.

The Pirate, just published in the U.S. by the New York Review of Books, has also appeared in French and German translation, the former as Le Pirate qui ne connaît pas la valeur de pi – Chapitre 1.
Ostashevsky, himself an award-winning translator from Russian and Italian, will talk about the challenges and opportunities of writing and publishing a creative book, and especially a multilingual one. He will also talk about pirate language, animal intelligence, and other minds. Of course, he will also read passages from The Pirate Who Does Not Know the Value of Pi.

A New Home for NYU Paris

New Paris site 1
NYU Paris is moving to a new academic center on the Boulevard Saint-Germain in the Latin Quarter, the vibrant cultural and intellectual heart of Paris. The center will have more space, be closer to major universities and cultural institutions, and benefit from the many resources of its new neighborhood.
The move will enable NYU Paris to better serves its education and research missions by allowing NYU Paris to leverage and expand its deep institutional and individual academic relationships, and to embrace a broader academic agenda. The new center will have the capacity to accommodate the increasing undergraduate student interest in Paris as well as the wide-ranging interests of NYU faculty and graduate students in research collaborations.
The new location will facilitate exchanges with NYU’s longstanding partners, including the Universities of Paris I, III, VII and X, as well as Sciences Po, many of which are located in close proximity to the new center. It will also place NYU Paris within short distance to major academic and cultural institutions such as the Bibliothèque Nationale, the Ecole Nationale Supérieure, the Sorbonne, the Louvre, the Collège de France, the Pompidou Center and more, affording our students greater opportunities to engage in Paris’s rich artistic and intellectual life.
With expanded classroom, office, and study space, the new center will be able to accommodate more undergraduate and graduate students as well as visiting faculty and graduate students through the establishment of a branch of the Global Research Institute (there are currently institutes in London, Berlin, and Florence). NYU’s Global Research Institute encourages research collaborations, both by facilitating and supporting existing relationships as well as by helping to support new ones.
The newly renovated academic center will include seminar rooms and classrooms, a library/reading room, a computer lab, a lecture hall, and a top floor lounge with a stunning view of the Paris skyline. “We have many fond memories of the charming townhouse in the 16th arrondissement that has been our home for the past forty years,” said Henriette Goldwyn, acting director of NYU Paris, “but there is no question that students and faculty alike will gain from the resources of the center and the dynamism of our new neighborhood.”
New Paris site 2
An expanded array of academic pathways to Paris will be available as well. In preparation for the move to the new academic center, departments and schools in New York, both those already offering courses in Paris and those interested in being represented there, explored opportunities for partnerships or affiliations in Paris. A complete list is available here: http://www.nyu.edu/global/global-academic-partnerships-and-affiliations.html.
NYU Paris will start operating in its new location by the beginning of the Summer 2014 term.
New Paris site 3

Dispatch from Paris

Henriette GoldwynNYU Paris remains committed to sustaining the vision that has defined the program since its inception, namely, the in-depth teaching of French language and culture as a means to help students foster new perspectives on the world around them. This is reflected both in the breadth of courses offered in the undergraduate program, that range from language and literature to courses on French history, contemporary society, international relations, French and European cinema, and more, and the center’s several graduate programs.
Graduate study at NYU Paris includes Masters in French Literature, in French Language & Civilization, and a two-year program in Teaching French as a Foreign Language in conjunction with the Steinhardt School (the only program of its kind). Just launched this year with the NY-based Program in Museum Studies, a new cooperative agreement allows students to earn an M.A. in French Language & Civilization in Paris and an Advanced Certificate in Museum Studies in New York.
Our first “soirée littéraire” was launched in November in the NYU Paris library. Well attended by students and colleagues alike, the evening featured Eugène Nicole, visiting professor from the French Department and author of L’Oeuvre des mers. Professor Nicole gave a transcendent talk about the tiny French island Saint Pierre and Miquelon, off the coast of Canada, in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, where he was born; there was a big signing and reception with lively discussion at the end.
Mansouria Mokhefi, NYU Paris Instructor and Middle East Program Director at Institut Français des Relations Internationales launched a series of brown bag lunch seminars on current events, addressing first the crisis in Syria and then the Arab Spring viewed from France. These informal and politically-themed lunchtime seminars led by a specialist are conceived and tailored for undergraduate students, to pique their curiosity about the rest of the world, to look beyond what is presented in the news, and especially to ask questions. Future events will tackle the thorny question of the Roma situation in France and the upcoming municipal elections and their significance in an increasingly heated political scene.
NYU Paris will be moving to a new academic center in the Latin Quarter in Summer 2014. With its long-standing relationships with the best Parisian universities and specialized schools, NYU Paris has long been on the cutting edge of Parisian intellectual life, a quality that will be enhanced through our move to this new space. Located in the thriving historic and intellectual heart of Paris, the new academic center will allow students the opportunity to benefit from the boundless cultural, artistic, and academic institutions of this wonderful neighborhood, including the Sorbonne, the Collège de France, the Collège des Bernardins, and the Cluny Museum, to name just a few.