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London, SW8 5PZ
United Kingdom

+44 7940 506551

Kashfi Halford is a film maker, camerawoman, photographer and Drone/UAV pilot. Clients include the BBC, Al Jazeera, The Guardian and the Times.

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A film maker and photographers adventures around the globe...

Journey to the Jungle - A refugees life

Kashfi Halford

"We will be rich together or we will all drown together" An African author Fatou Diome criticises Europe's hypocrisy on refugees. Thousands of refugees have died trying to cross the Mediterranean sea, to escape wars and persecution in their homelands. About 1,800 refugees have died in trying to cross in this year alone.

Many think Europe have adopted a "let them drown" policy as a deterrent. For those refugees that make it, many end up in the notorious "Jungle" a make shift refugee camp in Calais, where refugees wait desperately to try and make the dangerous crossing on lorries bound for Dover.

I first visited "the Jungle" in February 2015. I had met a lady (Maya) that worked for http://www.laubergedesmigrants.fr/ at a fundraising night in London. We immediately started talking about the situation in Calais, and I wanted to see for myself what it was really like in the "Jungle". A friend and I decided to drive a car load of food and clothes over for the refugees and make a film about our journey.

 

We borrowed my friends parents car and set about collecting clothes from friends. It was pretty cold in February and Maya had told us to bring lots of jackets and warm clothes particularly for men. In the winter time very few women and children risk the journey in the cold conditions. Many of the refugees that end up in Calais are fleeing civil war or certain death in their home countries. I met a lot of people from Syria, Eritrea, Sudan, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Maya hands out the clothes we brought

Maya hands out the clothes we brought

The camp doesn't officially exist in the eyes of the French government or the UK government for that matter. There are no washing facilities, no sanitation or running water. No where to sleep. So the people here build their make shift homes out of tarpaulin or tents and do the best they can. These people are amazingly resourceful, they have built a mosque and a church and a couple of huts that act as shops, there are two restaurants that cater for those that have a few spare euros or something to trade. There were many people sleeping in a corrugated iron warehouse which was an abandoned sports hall. All of the refugees we met were incredibly hospitable, cooking for us with the little they had, and sharing their food and stories from their homelands. Life is tough in the camp but with out all the material crap you have to rely on the human spirit. Kindness and generosity go along way in this world.

A few weeks after we left there was a forced evacuation and the whole jungle (over 1,500 people) had to pack up and leave with very little notice. The chaos of the evacuation left the Jungle looking like an apocalypse had happened.

The sports hall where over a hundred people sheltered through the winter was eerily empty. The evacuation was arranged by the French government, people fled in a hurry and left many possessions behind as if there were fleeing for their lives...

The second time I went back was just days after the jungle had been evacuated by the French police and the refugees were moved further out of Calais to a place near a food center called the Jules Ferry center. Again, no shelter or sanitation but there was a center where you could get one hot meal a day.

That day a lot of the Afghan refugees were having a kite flying day, the sun was out and spirits were high, some of the younger refugees played keep ups with a football and others flew kites.

An Afghan man flies a kite in the new "jungle" in Calais

The old jungle was left in a mess, many refugees fled and didn't think about what they left behind. Is it any wonder when the places they are staying are not fit for human habitation.

Jamal 16 and Rasheed 17 come back to the sports hall to look for lost items

A refugee carries the last of his belongings out of the old jungle

We must treat these people as survivors not refugees. They are human beings with skills and talents and a lot to share. They have fled their homelands in fear of death looking for a better life. We owe it to them to treat them as fellow human beings. If you'd like to help, please visit Maya's organisations website: http://www.laubergedesmigrants.fr/

The poverty cycle continues in Mexico but there is hope...

Kashfi Halford

On valentines day I visited the poverty stricken suburb of Tepehua, considered to be one of the poorest barrios (neighbourhoods) in the sate of Jalisco, Mexico. I met a woman who runs a local community centre there called Tepehua Centro Comunitario AC, where people from this neighbourhood can come to get clean, see a doctor and get fed once a week for free.

Drug use and alcohol abuse are rife in the community, and many children are not registered for school as they do not have proper documentation (birth certificates, inoculations etc). The people that come to the community centre are mainly women and children, the men preferring to stay on the streets, as most see it as un-masculine to need help.

Local ex pats and local Mexicans work together to help out in the kitchens, serve food and clean up, it's a nice vibe with everyone helping out and getting stuck in. On Friday mornings every week women and children come to get a good free nutritious meal. There is also a free clinic for health care, a dentist's office and a play area that kids can use safely. They have a small clothes shop where donated clothes are sold for 1 or 2 pesos. They also have a sewing machine room that the women can use to make things to sell on the street to make a little money for themselves. Their next project is to open a trade school for adults, who would pay a small contribution to learn a trade skill which may help them to get better jobs. The community centre is very much about helping people to help themselves.

The free Friday meal

The free Friday meal

One of the families that comes here is Jenny (below) a drug user who is 25yrs old and has 4 children under 8yrs old. I went to visit their 'home' on the outside of a slum 20 minutes from the community centre. It was a small hovel of one room covered by a tarp with one bed for 5 to sleep in. They share the space with a dog and 8 puppies, there is no running water and the fire they use to warm themselves inside the room is giving the children lung infections, it was a sorry state to live in, and all I could think was what happens when it rains... luckily this area is said to have the second best climate in the world, so on that front they might be lucky.

The Tepehua community organisation raised $2000 to build Jenny and her husband a breeze block room but unfortunately they put the deed in the husbands name and once it was finished he kicked out Jenny and their children and brought another woman to live with him. Apparently this is not un-common, with most homes or land in mens names, the women and children are the ones who suffer. The organisation are once again applying for funding to raise the $2000 to build a room which will now be in Jenny's name, where her and her children will have a clean safe home.

The Tepehua centre provides free healthcare, food, training and hope to many families, particularly women and children. They are fighting against an age old system of poverty, plus another age old problem of humanity - drugs. The local area has a meth factory and many of the adults and teenagers succumb to the meth to escape their impoverished lives. I was going to go to the Meth factory and try and get photographs inconspicuously but then I remembered Breaking Bad and the thought of getting killed by some crazy drug making psychopath in a Meth factory in Mexico put me off, especially as just 4 hours from here in the state of Michoacan the Knights templar drug cartel is in an open street war with the police.

This little community centre has it's own war in this destitute neighbourhood but they are slowly winning in my opinion, especially with the children. If these kids continue to come to the community centre throughout their childhood, they just might be able to crawl out of the poverty they were born into. It won't be easy but those who are in real need will always find their way. 

                               For more information please visit: www.tepehua.org

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Jumping with the Turkana tribe whilst filming for Oxfam

Kashfi Halford

Diary excerpts from an Oxfam filming trip to the Turkana district in Kenya

2nd October 2013

Up in North West Kenya in the Turkana district, it's a bit like African cowboy country, hot, dusty and apparently lots of cattle rustling between the tribes. The 'Shepherds' all carry guns!
The women here wear beautiful beads in stacks up to their chin, with beautiful wraps of almost tartan description, the men wear funny little beanie type hats with feathers and also a colorful wrap and carry a long stick and a round wooden knife tool. I assume different patterns/colours are for different tribes.
We head North today to see some projects that Oxfam are supporting

4th October 2013

They told us that when we went to the remote parts of Turkana, the women may sing to us to show that they are happy to see us. Today they sang and danced towards us, as you can see in the video, they came closer and closer and then I switched off the camera to be with them. Then they started jumping at all different times and our fixer Joseph said if you want to jump you should jump with them, it was slightly intimidating at first, but after getting over my initial English stiffness, I started jumping too and they went wild with laughter and jumping, and then the men gathered round laughing, it was such a wonderful experience, an overpowering feeling. I guess that's what they call jumping for joy :)

6th October 2013

Went to the elephant orphanage today in Nairobi, a lot were orphaned quite young (most under 6 months) from their mothers being poached for their ivory  Elephants never forget they are one of the most intelligent animals so you can imagine the trauma these little guys have suffered. Almost cried when the 3 little ones came out (in the first photo) as they are only 5 weeks old and looked a bit traumatised and frightened, they kept so close to their keepers, who I guess are like their surrogate mothers. The keepers have to sleep in their stable with them and feed them every 3 hours. The other bigger ones are about a year and a half but they still need mothers milk until they are 2 years old. Dame Daphne Sheldrick came up with a formulae to feed baby elephants, because obviously you can't milk a wild elephant to give to orphan baby elephants! The older ones were more playful and seemed quite happy eating and playing in the mud together.
I adopted a baby elephant today as a birthday present for my 9yr old niece it's only $50 a year and it helps keep the orphanage running, it costs $900 per month for each baby elephant! If you are interested in adopting go to: 
                                                             www.sheldrickwildlifetrust.org 
and adopt one of these beautiful intelligent babies, they live until they are 70yrs old!

Diary excerpts from filming the Maha Kumbh Mela in India

Kashfi Halford

These excerpts were taken from my diary when I was shooting a documentary for the BBC at the Maha Kumbh Mela in Allahabad, India.

 

8th February 2013

The main part of the camping for Kumbh Mela is held on the river bed where the Ganga and Yumana rivers meet. In monsoon season the whole of the camp would be under water! I'm praying it doesn't rain. Imagine a muddy Glastonbury x 100 and I didn't bring my wellies!
Yesterday we met some Kalpavasis, these are people who towards the end of their life commit themselves to god more. This means they spend 2 months of the year at the Kumbh, they live very simply, they eat only once a day, they bathe in the rivers twice a day, they hope to bring themselves closer to god and get to heaven. They must do this for at least 12 years, yesterday we met an 80yr old and his wife both Kalpavasis, the man came for his first bath in the sangam in 1942! I asked what had changed at the mela since then and he said its pretty much the same size with more amenities but the mela has lost it's true religious essence, he thinks it has become a lot of pomp and ceremony and glamour but the people have forgotten the essence of the Kumbh. I am also thinking 60% of this is all for show, everyman and his dog is a guru of some kind! Of course there are many gurus who are doing good things but a lot who seem to collect money and bless people. The 10th is the main bathing day when 100s of naked Naga Sadhus take their dip in the Ganga, it's the new moon which is the most auspicious day to bathe during the Mela. On the 10th no vehicles are allowed anywhere on the site, so we are due to get up at 2am and walk at least an hour to the Sangam bathing with all our camera equipment to capture the first bathers. It's going to be a very long day!

A beautiful Kalpavasi woman who had been coming to the Kumbh for the last 50years

A beautiful Kalpavasi woman who had been coming to the Kumbh for the last 50years

9th February 2013

Whoa! So that was the busiest Kumbh day. I've never seen so many people all in one place and that was just one street! The cross roads are crazy, imagine Oxford circus at peak rush hour, no traffic lights or pavements or any order. Huge groups moving together and fighting not to get separated from each other. A sea of people and most are just arriving so are carrying huge pieces of luggage on their heads, noise, people blowing horns, jostling, pushing. I nearly lost it at one point, I was doing a really tricky shot on a 400mm 2.8 operating and focusing and following a contributor through the crowd, even trying to get the tripod out was difficult enough, noise through the roof plus a really annoying guy blowing a shell horn in my ear. I can't tell you how long it took to set up that shot, trying to control as many variables as possible, and then just as we nearly got it some idiots decide to stand in front of the camera and wave!!!! I took a deep breath, had a small scream internally and then tried again. We got the shot finally but that was nuts. I've also caught myself singing Hare, Hare, Krishna, Krishna hare etc etc in my head... I'm basically loosing it  x

The most auspicious bathing day at the Kumbh, almost 30 million people came to bathe on this day!

The most auspicious bathing day at the Kumbh, almost 30 million people came to bathe on this day!

10th February 2013

After being awake and filming for 30hours that could possibly be the craziest day of my life. I've never seen so many people, millions and millions came to the sangam to bath on the most auspicious day (10th Feb). All the ashrams paraded down to the river at dawn in chariots with all their followers and sadhus, the arrival of ashrams went on for 4hours there were so many! The naked Naga sadhus covered themselves in ash and charged into the river like they were charging into war. The police were kettling people all over the place, after they cleared the area of normal people so the naga sadhus could charge through down to the river there were so many individual shoes and clothes strewn everywhere. I felt so sorry for these older people who for some of them it may be the first time out of their village, they come to Kumbh to bathe away their sins and are so frightened of getting lost that they tie themselves to each other, but of course after bathing in crowds of millions while they are trying to get dressed the police are herding them away (some beating people with sticks) and they get separated from their group. Over 250,000 people were reported lost yesterday. The lost and found announcements are endless and so loud with speakers all over the place you can't hear yourself think, and instead of announcing their name they give the microphone to the lost person who screams their panicked plea out to the whole mela, this torrent of screaming panic coupled with crowds of millions of people trying not to get lost and pushing and shoving and delirium from lack of sleep made filming really hard. I got very grumpy after 18-24hrs of this and the last 6hrs I was so delirious I started loosing it and laughing at the sheer craziness of it all. I felt like I was not there at points as if I was in a dream - you know those nights after clubbing all night the walk home in the morning is all hazy and weird, imagine walking home with millions of people and the police whistling and jostling you (of course they didn't dare touch us). We walked an hour and a half with all the camera equipment back to our tents, and finally collapsed in bed Zzzzzzzzzz

One of the Naga Sadhus parading down to the Sangam to bathe on the new moon

One of the Naga Sadhus parading down to the Sangam to bathe on the new moon

12th February 2013

Eat, sleep, film, eat, sleep, film, eat, sleep, film... today I found myself in the middle of two huge ashram processions, one going one way full of orange men playing musical instruments, and elephants, and the other with sadhus carrying huge staffs with flags, and lots of camels. I got totally star struck by the elephant, (who was very beautiful and majestic) I was walking backwards filming him, looking through the viewfinder and out of nowhere a chariot full of sadhus comes charging past me, nearly knocked me flying. Luckily the director pulled me out of the way just in time. These sadhus in their vehicles are crazy and totally irresponsible, they charge around full speed through the crowds, sometimes in cars also, and because they are sadhus they get priority. I'd bet most of them are stoned out of their heads from smoking chillums all day long, no wonder they drive so manically. So yes, todays filming I had to contend with elephants, camels, marching pilgrims, and stoned sadhus charging around in chariots. Another day at the office...

An ashram parades with elephants and Sadhus in chariots

An ashram parades with elephants and Sadhus in chariots