Rain, rain go away.

The weather forecast was for rain starting at noon.  The plan was to meet at the container area to load the 3 vans.  I organized the hygiene container with the left over

items we’d distributed yesterday.  I’d brought some items from home that I thought might help keep things organized.

We made our way back to the camp for our last distro for the trip.  Our new Czech friends had their van FILLED with women and men’s clothing.  With so many arrivals and the burned tents the need is huge right now at the

camp.  In the short time we’ve been here we’ve seen the garage piles grow.

The boys enjoy doing line control- Marin and his French skills are a huge help and they like to talk to those waiting in line.  Keeping the mood light is essential but you also need

to be firm.  They did a great job.  I was a “shopper” which meant that once a person is registered, Janne writes on their ticket what they can pick out and for how many people. It’s a really good way to do this- but still people are upset when we ran out of some sizes. But we got far more happy smiles!

A man had gone through the line and Max had been helping him, he wanted a sports coat because there was a big tear in the one he had.  The IMG_E0776gentleman had left when Max found a sport coat.  He left his shopper and went running up the hill to catch the guy- they both came back and when the man tried on the jacket it was a perfect fit!  Small things that mean so much.

Mae helped shoppers but what she really loved doing was keeping the kids busy while the moms shopped.  It is hard to believe there could be any flowers left for all that were picked today!

The country side is full of blooming colors!  It is amazing to see.

At about 5:30pm it started to sprinkle.  It slowly increased to rain.  Janne called an end for the day and Ali (the main interpreter) marked on everyones ticket who hadn’t been served a mark so that they

could return on Thursday for another chance.

Dinner was with all 18 of us at a local restaurant on the port.  Conversation was lively, the food great and the goodbyes long.

Hygiene + blanket distro.

The container area is located at the end of the runway near the Chios airport.  The islands answer for “you-store storage”.  About 100 containers are lined up in an “L” shape that other NGO’s use as well as shops and local people.  This morning a couple from the

Czech Republic drove 3 days with a van full of aid- we unloaded the van then Janne took it to the “1 Euro” store to pick up the items that had been purchased yesterday- dish soap, shampoo, deodorant, women pads, clothing wash, toothbrushes and tooth paste.

We organized the blankets and other aid.   3 vans loaded with aid made their way past

the camp, down a dirt road where 200+ people had been waiting for up to 4 hours for our disto that was to start at 11:00 am.  We pulled out at 8:00pm, the light from the full moon helping us those last hours in all 220+ people received critical aid.  Happy

International Women’s Day!



Love wins over fascists…..

Screams of “close the border” are heard around the world, the little Greek island of Chios has not been spared.

Days before we were leaving for Greece my social media sites were blown up with messages for refugees to “stay indoors”, to avoid public spaces and to NOT go into the city.  The fascists had gathered in Chios, some from the island, others from the mainland.  Their message of hate in the form of blockades on the 2 roads leading to the camp.  Threatening to do harm to any refugee they saw.

For 2 days food could not be delivered to the 7,000+ people who call Vial Camp home.  In IMG_E0699the chaos of the days tensions were high in the camp and on the 3rd evening 28 tents were burned.  People who had hardly anything lost everything.

Not knowing  the situation on the ground we arrived in Greece not knowing what could be done with tensions so high.  Iris House has a dozen or so interpreters who live in Vial and who keep the founder Janne updated daily (or hourly) as needed.  With so many new arrivals and 28 families who had lost everything, Janne decided the best course would be to do a clothing distribution for those who lost all and the new arrivals.

Another NGO who helps the young unaccompanied minors and young men joined our group for the distribution.  We met at the container area where the aid we’d sorted yesterday was loaded into the 3 waiting vans.  In all there were 15 of us. We all gathered in a circle to talk about the plans, jobs were given: line keepers, people to help each individual shop, shoe distribution and people to add clothing when needed from the back stock.  And a plan to stop distribution was also discussed, and Janna would make the call in the moment to leave the aid or load the aid and drive back to the container area.

We arrived to the distribution area on the same dirt road where distributions have been happening.  An easy 5 minute walk along a dirt road from camp.  Spring has sprung in

Chios and the olive groves are spotted with purple, yellow, white and red flowers.  About 50 people patiently were lined up waiting for us to start.

I was in line control (really an excuse to take babies away from weary mothers and hold

them while the mom’s waited their turn).  Emotions were measured as everyone gauged the mood.  There were about 10 of us minding the line- there were the usual people “cutting the line” who were gently but firmly told to go to the back of the line.  Children ran in the fields picking flowers to give to their family members or us line keepers.  The IMG_0683weather was PERFECT!  Big fluffy clouds, a cool breeze and the sight of the beautiful flowers everywhere.  Holding their babies I’d ask the mothers were they were from, if they did not speak a little English a friend in line would translate.  And, if no translator, we would smile and admire the babies.

Someone would hold a place in the line and the others would go sit in the fields of flowers. So beautiful.

Slowly the line snaked down to the area where the clothing could be picked out.  Max, Marin,Sam and Mae were shopper helpers.  To maintain fairness, each person given a number is registered in the computer saying what they got and the date.  On their ticket Janne writes the number of people in the family and the ages of the children if applicable.  Next a “shopper” (Sam, Marin, Max and Mae plus 4-5 interpreters) would take that family/person and they were able to pick out:  1-top, 1-coat, 1-pair pants and 1-pair shoes.  The shoes ran out in an hour and while we’d

packed 3 vans with clothing we left with 1/2 a van full.  In all 157 people received aid in 5 hours.  We loaded the vans, drove to the container area, unloaded the vans and drove 5 minutes to a seaside town Karfas for dinner at a family run restaurant.  There were 14 of us in all.  Our lives started in: America, Norway, Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria but tonight we were friends gathering after a great day of work.

We parted after dinner and went to a local grocery store and loaded 3 grocery carts with IMG_0705diapers and went back to our hotel to pack them into bunches of 15 diapers, tape them and put them in big plastic bags for tomorrows distribution.   At the beginning of this crisis babies were given 10 diapers a week.  “The horror” we said!  But this past 1+ years no diapers are given unless from and NGO (like Carry the Future).

We are doing well, tired.  Last night we got back to the hotel just after midnight.  We’d visited Vial and I’m still digesting what we saw.  Will write about it later.

The kids are doing fantastic, working hard, engaging with the refugees, locals and everyone they meet.  It is a blessing to see their worlds being expanded and exposed to such new realities.  These are good kids and our future will be brighter because of them.


Storage area work.

We met Janne and her team at the container area to start getting ready for tomorrow’s distribution.For the next 7 hours we prepared the distributions for the 35 families who lost their tents a few days ago and to new arrivals. The kids did great- worked hard, problem solved while I worked mostly on organizing the container that has the hygiene items. Made a couple trips to the camp at the end of the day bring the interpreters back. Two years ago 1500 people in a space built for 1100 looked horrible. Today 8,000+. Unimaginable.

We met for dinner with a long term volunteer Ruhi who’s a major rock star in aid work. Her NGO focuses on the young men who are so violently thrust into adulthood when they are purposed with going to the EU to find a better life-

Chios….Round 5

It started out that just Mae and I would go to Chios for her Spring Break……but in the last month it morphed into a trip with Max and 2 of his buddies added.  Listen people, IMG_E0593airfares are CHEAP right now.  I know, there is a virus pandemic …..but that was not going to stop us!

We all started in Phoenix, some of us went by way of JFK in NYC, others Minneapolis….all in all we left Phoenix within 10 minutes of each other and arrived in Athens 25 hours later within 10 minutes of each other!  Truly amazing!

Mae and I had a 6-1/2 hour lay over in Amsterdam and Mae had never been so of course got tickets to the Anne Frank House (can only be purchased online, sold 2 months in advance and you have to choose a time).  I’d been 36 years ago but was excited to see it through Mae’s eyes.

We arrived in Amsterdam at 6am so we stored our roller bags at the airport and headed by train to the city center.  It was a short 15 minuted ride- 3 stops away.  The morning 9C953D43-83DF-4F0A-B55A-6FEA32AECA45light was just just peeking over the clouds when we left the train station to start the 20 minute walk to the museum.  The morning was cool and the light perfect.  Flowers bloomed like confetti in a parade in planters lining the streets.

The city was quiet, work trucks plied the small lanes loaded with linens and produce.  We found a hotel with an open tea room and stopped to get a bite to eat.  We could see the light creeping into the park just outside our table window.

We started walking towards the museum along with throngs of parents biking their children to school.  The most amazing bikes and configurations of bikes + kids.


We were part of the 1st time to get into the house.  We were given audio packs to hear bits and pieces of the time and place that had Anne trapped in the house those years – we went from room to room, up crazy steep steps to the spaces Anne and her family and occupied.  The mood was heavy and the stories told and videos shown were gut wrenching.

We back tracked our way to the airport – this time adding a tram ride to the train ride.  Gathering our bags we made our way back into the airport and met up with Marin who’d flown in from NYC.  Max and Sam flew from NYC to Zurich.  It was an easy 2 hour 40 minute flight to Athens. IMG_0641

Soon we were all in the baggage area in Athens, collection the aid we’d checked in at Phoenix and making our way to our flight from Athens to Chios.  It was a quick 30 minute flight from Athens to Chios.  The sun was setting and the sea was shimmering in the waning light.

We checked into the hotel in town i’d stayed at a couple of my trips to Chios.  A block off the main port area it is a small 7 room, “2 Star” hotel.  Hasib who’d i’d met 2 years ago on my first visit to Chios met us at the airport, drove with us to the hotel and we ate dinner with him.  IMG_E0642 At 21 he is a bit older then Max, Sam and Marin who are 20 but in many ways they are very similar but in most oceans apart.

Hasib left Afghanistan when he was 14 when his mother told him to leave Afghanistan because it was not safe for him.  So he walked to Greece.  Stopping and working along the way.  It took him over a year.  Today he has his Greek citizenship but it was hard won.  Yet he still is quick to smile and always willing to lend a helping hand.  Mae and I went up to the room and the guys walked Hasib home about 15 minutes from our hotel.

Tensions are high on the island – more so now as the last provence in Syria is falling and upwards of 800,000 people are fleeing Syria for Turkey.  Last week Turkey said they would open their borders which means that Greece and the 4 islands the refugees land on have seen a steady increase of boat landings.  The locals are tired, Greece is tired, the refugees are tired.


200 tickets.

The day before yesterday Ali handed out 100 tickets in the camp for toiletry distribution. With so many new arrivals and knowing this disto Janne felt we could handle a larger number.  So yesterday he handed out 200 tickets.  While maybe we had 20 single men or women, the rest were at least a family of 4, sometimes even larger.  Which means, all in all toiletries were

handed out to about 1000 people of the 4000 currently living in the camp.

We started our day going to the city center to pick up items purchased from the 1 Euro store.  Because Janne purchases so much from them she is able to purchase everything for .85 Euro.

While in town we also got more tickets to be handed out for distro, coffee, a bakery run and for me to add more data to my burner phone (which I have to do every couple of days).

Back to the container area to load the 3 vans with items to be distributed.  We followedIMG_E3369 Janne in her van and we could literally see the wheels bending in from the weight of the aid!

We returned to the same spot, along a long winding dusty road out of sight from the camp but within a 5 minute walking distance.

Ali and the team had been in place for the previous 2 hours for line control.  We later learned that people started lining up at 4am.  Someone had started a fire to keep everyone warm while they waited.

We quickly set up as it was a repeat from a couple of days perviously.  At 11:00am the first person stood in front of our desk and we started.

The weather was perfect, a cool breeze and the line manageable- meaning no one rushed our area.  People are so appreciative for the items and when they sit to get registered

with Janne and I they usually have a concerned look- tired from all the waiting I imagine.  But they pass us by on their way back up the hill, back to their tents with a “thank you!”  a smile, and it there are kids a HUGE smile and a wave of the teddy bear they’d received.

Today we had a kitty hanging out in front of our desk most of the days.  The kids would squat down to play with it while they waited for mom and/or dad to register.

We all went to eat dinner after we’d finished the distribution at 5:00pm, returned to the container area to drop off the recycled boxes and any left over aid.

A very full day, but we will sleep well knowing that the families who did receive items today could in turn sleep a little better.


Our mornings are spent sitting on the balcony, looking out at the sea.  An our or so of peace and quiet.  A time to sort the things we have seen.

Today was a hygiene distribution.  We’d gone to the 1 Euro store to purchase: deodorant mens/women’s, toothpaste (no need to purchase toothbrushes as our dentist Dr. John Harmon amazingly donated 465 toothbrushes!) , washing powder, pads, razors, sponges, shampoo and body wash yesterday and to day we met at the container area to load our vans.

Yesterday 3 of the interpreters/refugees who live in Vial went out into the 2 of the 4 areas and handed out 100 tickets to new arrivals.  This could be a single man or woman or a family of 6, each equaled a ticket.

We arrived on the dirt road down the hill from the camp at almost 11:00am for the 11:00am distribution.  There were 5 of us in the CTF-Team 60, a new volunteer from Norway and the 6 interpreters who we’ve been working with all week.  Janne held a quick meeting, everyone went over their jobs.

I settled into the chair next to Janne to help her with inputting the info into her computer so that she can keep track that there is no duplicating of aid going out. Up the hill we can see one of the volunteers with about 4-6 people, waiting.  We give a wave and they send the person/family down to us.

Handed to me are either the individual cards from the Greek government or the papers that are given to brand new arrivals.  A 6 digit number is what Janne enters into her computer and I look/shuffle through the sheets of paper finding out if there is a wife or husband, any kids, ages of the kids.  Sometimes there is an interpreter available to help, but with so many languages being spoken I often point to my left hand and wedding band to see if they are married, and mime rocking a baby to see if there are babies.  Fingers are held up to tell the ages of the kids.

It’s a trail of humanity that stands in front of our little table.  Our team had purchased 2 new stools for us to sit on so we had the other stool available for people to sit on if they wanted to.  Tired moms, a grandpa with a crutch and sometimes little kids were on the stool.  Janne and I make sure to make a connection, even if so very small, to everyone.  Oohing at baby, smiling at their picture…….letting them know that we see them.  Not just their number.

A couple hours into the day the stapled papers of new arrival was put in front of me.  Smiling I looked up.  A boy stood before me.  A child.  I quickly looked to see if there were more papers then the 2 assigned to every person.  No, just 2 pages.  He was alone.

I flipped to the 2nd page and held it up to Janne so she could input his name.  I quickly scanned the sheet for his birthday.  Did the math.  He was 13.  An unaccompanied minor. Alone.

What kind of world do we live in that a mother sends a child across countries in search of a better life?  Or is there not a mother and the child see’s moving forward the only way to stay alive?

One of the interpreters came to sit on the stool near the end of distribution.  He said “150”.  “150 what” Janne asked.  “150 people arrived last night” was his reply.  It is as if a water hose has been turned up this past week.  Instead of water, humanity.  Men, women and children.

With so many new arrival Janne had us do an inventory at the container area, she ordered more hygiene items that we will pick up in the morning.  Tomorrow we will double our distribution to 200.

It rained last night, we awoke to images on our phones sent to us from inside the camp of water running through the tents, between the buildings.  Puddles the size of cars.  We knew that most of those 150 people who arrived last night slept on the hard ground.  No beds- just rivers of water.  Rivers of misery.

“The rats….they eat her shoe.”

Having already sorted the children’s clothes, we all met at the container area to load the 4 vans with the sorted children’s clothing. Yesterday the interpreters had handed out 100gmoc9848tickets in 2 of the 4 areas for new arrivals. For the 2nd day we were distributing to new arrivals along with the Dutch family. 

With so many new arrivals daily, getting aid out as often as possible is critical. The head of Iris House, Janne works out a rotating schedule to be as fair and equitable to all of the residents.

Even best planned intentions can have consequences- today we learned that while people were told to start lining up at 10:00am for the 11:00am distribution. People actually started lining up at 7:30am.

We returned to the same area we’d distributed yesterday.  This time we unloaded big kjso7847tarps, put the bags of clothing in a row by size and put out a pile of clothing per size for people to shop in.

Once again I helped Janne register the families.  Every family is given a case number by the Greek government and has sheets of papers for each family member if they have arrived within the last week, and a 3 fold card for people who had been here a bit longer.  

Toward the end of the distribution a mom came up to the table with her teenage daughter.  12 to be exact.  The young girl was beautiful and could speak a little English. img_3323 Her mother asked about shoes for her daughter.  “I’m so sorry, we are out of larger size shoes” I replied to mom.  “The rats, they are eating her shoes” the mom pleaded.  

For children 2 years or younger the families were able to pick out 10 items and get a blanket.  For older children up to 14 years old, only 5 items. ergo1522

Families left the area with their arms loaded with clothing or in bags or piled high on strollers.  

We were all tired when we dropped off the remaining boxes of clothing at the container area about 6pm.  In all over 300 kids received clothing.  



Strollers and diapers.

We met Janne and her Iris House team along with some volunteers from Holland at the storage area this morning.  We loaded 80 strollers that had been bought with CTF fundsIMG_3283 and shipped from Athens to Chios into 4 vans- 2 rented from CTF, Janne’s and the Dutch volunteers. 6fe84048-5bc9-41df-a51b-558733657802

We were jammed in our vans as we drove to just outside the camp walls.

Build for 800 today the number in the camp is about 4,000.  It is unimaginable as when the population was 2,000 we couldn’t think it could get worse.

Well it has.  Not only are the strollers needed to get around the camp, they are useful if a family wants to make the 1.5 hour walk to the city.  Taxi’s are available, but they cost about $30 per way.

But the most horrific reason that we learned the families want the strollers for is so that the babies can sleep in them so that the rats and snakes don’t bite the babies while they sleep.


Yesterday the interpreter refugees who volunteer at Iris House and live in the camp went around and handed out tickets to families with children 2 years or younger living in the camp.

The distribution went really well, meaning there were no fights or scuffles.  But as usual, there were about a dozen families that made up the rear of the line, without a ticket looking for a stroller.  Desperate for a stroller.

Janne promised to return when funds were available to purchase more strollers.  That is all she can do, and being the only NGO that distributes aid in the camp, the residents have learned that she is fair and good for her word.

After the distribution a dozen of us met at a sea side restaurant to share a meal and get to know each other.  For the refugee/interpreters it is a semblance of normality that is so hard to find living in a refugee camp.  For the the volunteers it is a way to get to know our brothers and sisters on the run.

After our meal we took our 2 vans and filled them with diapers from 2 different grocery stores her on the island with money donated

from CTF.  Tomorrow we will distribute the children’s clothes we sorted yesterday and we will start opening the packages of diapers and putting them in bunches of 15 to hand our later in the week.

In the dark we unloaded our vans and sat down for a dinner of left overs and food we’d purchased at the store today and earlier in the week.  We are about 9 miles outside of Chios and it is so dark and quiet out here.

It was a perfect way to end the day.


CTF Team 60.

There are 5 of us on this team- 2 i’ve been on CTF trips in the past and 2 new people to me, but not CTF as they have both been on teams before.

Once again blessed with a fantastic team! Eager to start working we met the Iris House team at the container area this morning.

Today we sorted kids clothes for a big distribution we will do on Sunday-

There were about a dozen of us sorting by size, the sun was warm- but there was a nice breeze.

We are staying at an AirBnB a bit out of Chios town but large and comfy for all of us. We arrived in the dark late last night, and woke to this beautiful view.

After about 6 hours of sorting we ran some of the interpreters back to the camp. Not having been there since May, i’d read how overcrowded the camp was and seen pictures on social media but the reality in real time is so awful. Hundreds if people in tents, on the ground outside the camp walls, no sanitation, only the flimsy nylon walls as protection from the sun, heat, wind and rain.

The situation is similar to the scenes from the beginning of this crisis 4 years ago.

All of the interpreters from my previous 3 times to Chios are gone, a new team has taken their place- Farsi, Arabic and French are the languages most people in the camp speak.

My interpreter friends from before have either been transferred to Athens or have made their way to Germany and Holland. Those in Athens are there for next steps, hopefully getting asylum which means they will have papers and can stay in the EU.