We met the beautiful Rita (who is the Athens contact for CTF) and 2 of her volunteers at the port this morning. No improvement with sun light, inhumane living conditions.
Our weather has been beautiful-80 and sunny everyday. Soon it will be in the 90’s and 100’s. Life on the docks is not sustainable, rumor is that these people will be moved to Skaramagas which is the camp we visited today-our van was loaded with supplies that had been packed for us and that we loaded into the van yesterday.
We followed Rita along the coast for about 20 minutes, the location seemed remote from any commercial business, also on the sea. It turns out that this land is owned by the Greek Navy and the camp will be run by them as well.
Very official getting into the camps-we have to show our passports, papers listing the supplies we have are stamped, one saved for the camp, one returned to the Warehouse. This camp has only been around for a week or so. Large containers set row upon row. There are supposedly 1060 refugees living here, but you can see by the construction that many more will be added.
The pods are air conditioned, with electricity, a living room (with a stove), a bedroom, and a bathroom. Actual beds! Not just mattresses piled on the floor. We were quickly surrounded by kids and moms when they saw us pull up. Everyone was looking for diapers and milk. Thankfully we had the diapers but no milk. Most of the refugee’s like to start their day like us, milk in their coffee and a little milk for the children. Should be easy-no?
We handed out a little aid- but could tell the situation could go south anytime so we closed the doors and drove around to the blue building where Rita and her volunteers were helping the 2 Navy guys hand out aid to over 1,000 people. Who.have.nothing.
A CRAZY system. While I was in there a representative from the UNHCR (the United Nations Refugee Agency) there with, and I kid you not, a notebook and a pencil taking notes. No aid. No workers. A pen and a notebook. This crisis is the 2nd largest population shift IN THE HISTORY OF THE PLANET and it is, by in large, being run by volunteers from around the planet. The women point to their clothes and say- children. They want children’s clothes, shoes, diapers, milk. VERY basic needs. A Warehouse is less then 10 miles from here FULL of aid from around the world. There were 10’s of 1000’s of pairs of shoes. Our little cargo van is measly band aid on a gushing wound.
As is our mandate, we handed out carriers. LOTS of carriers. This baby was so cute! The mother had taken the time to put a head band on the baby- the Waldorf mom in me was all like: WHERE IS THAT BABIES HAT!!! Baby just sat their nonplused while we adjusted straps, and pads.
We constantly had a band of children following us from house to house- carrying our large duffles of baby carriers. There were 2 boys about 10 who took it upon themselves to carry the huge duffles around making sure we had access to them between fittings. They would shoo away the littler kids who would try and help. Not mean, just firm.
They were the perfect mix of cute with a dash of naughty-the one in the green jacket would “take” my clip and they with grand magical gestures make it reappear-I gave them gum at one point and the rest of the kids would want some, he would point to my vest pocket with the gum- look up at me with those huge eyes and put one finger up- “just one mother, just one”. The guy in the orange shirt wanted me to return with a bike in the worse way. He kept saying “tomorrow scooter?” then he would pantemime riding a bike.
This little love was one of the 1st carriers we fit- it was just Mom and her 5 kids- since we were invited into her home we were able to give all the kids little treat from our packs. This is not possible with large crowds around- it would be impossible to give them all something so we love these moments. The mom was so grateful – at one point she leaned back and grabbed a box, about the size of a small moving box. Inside were 5 oranges and 5 juice boxes. Literally the only food in the house. She insisted we both take a juice box-we politely declined. She was insistent, we all finally agreed that we would share a box between the 2 of us. To have nothing and to give- gladly, with a smile.
One of our team members was in a family’s home, there was a girl about 25 who spoke excellent English-she was telling Lauren that she had been in medical school in Syria and would like to help by translating-everyone is bored. Even the adults. These camps are often isolated – the only visitors are the aid groups who communicate via Facebook sites as to what is happening at which camp, who needs what, the camp contact…..if a new camp or squat appears an SOS goes out as to what is needed.
Our plan is to return to the same camps we were at yesterday on Tuesday with items for the 12 pregnant women at the camp. So we spent a couple of hours at a mega children’s store near to our hotel loading up goody bags to bring to the women and children. We all had been given money to buy things for the refugees by family and friends and this is one of the projects we are using the money on. We filled 4 carts with goodies for the pregnant Moms and games and balls for the older kids in the 2 camps.
Today a mother came up to us asking for books “ABC” she kept saying, and pantomiming writing-she wanted supplies to teach her child to read and write. Many of these kids have not been to school in years. And by the look of the pace of things, it may be some time before they are back in school.