All of our checked baggage is for the baby carrier that Carry the Future gives us – so everything we wear and all the refugee loot we want to give away goes into our carry-ons
The flights were uneventful- flew from Phoenix to Los Angeles, Los Angeles to Paris then Paris to Athens. I’m all like PLENTY of time in Paris to do a little duty free shopping……WRONG. By the time I wound my way from 1st flight to the 2nd, I was the last one to the gate in Paris- but did make the flight! Slept about 5 hours on the long leg and about another hour the 2nd- so feeling rested. Arrived in Athens about 4:30pm local time- went straight to the hotel and met our rock star team. The 6 of us are divided between 2 rooms in a basic (but very clean and fantastic location to ports) hotel.
We sat around and our leader Sara (who was here a couple months ago) gave us a rough overview of the next week, we were also joined by Rita who works with CTF and is a lovely local woman who has a deep respect and love of the refugees. She works for a multi national during the week and spends her evenings and weekends with the refugees mostly in the port area.
Our hotel is located about a block from the port/piers- after a great dinner we all loaded into the van Sarah rented (this will be our transportation for the week) and drove to the pier areas where there are still some refugees who have yet to be re-settled into camps. We will be visiting the camps during the week, and since Rita has worked with these families for months I imagine we will be running down there some evenings to check-in. Rita has developed a relationship with many of the families and even took a family of 20 to the zoo last weekend.
The pier area is well lit and 3 (of the 12) of the piers had camps set up…..At 2 of the piers there were buildings housing families-imaging an area about the size of 2 basketball courts, sectioned off by grey blankets provided by the UNHCR, each family has an area- lights are blazing, kids are running around. As if they were home, shoes are removed before you enter the area or tent- I saw a mother sweeping her blankets, this is her home.
Mostly this crisis is being managed by volunteers from Greece and around the world- literally people, putting their lives on pause and coming to Greece and Turkey to work with the refugees.
When we arrived there were lines of people waiting for dinner (it was 8PM), women in one line, men in the other. Everyone was given what looked like a curry, a piece of bread and an orange. A volunteer organization from China had about 5 volunteers that were showing a movie- the kids were LOVING IT! Many of these kids have been on the move for months/years. No school, boredom reigns. The older siblings often are in charge of the littles.
We interacted with the groups, felt a little hesitant at first- like I was invading their new normal…….but smiles and hugs are universal- the children want to be picked up, swung around and just loved on. At one point a wave of sadness swept over me…….I cannot imagine living like this, the stories these people will hold in their hearts for the rest of their lives. And yet, there were smiles, welcoming gestures to enter their living areas a sense of welcoming in what is a very bad situation.