We headed out from the hotel about 9- we were going to go to the Warehouse to work a bit then load up to bring things to a squat in town later today and for the 2 camps we will be visiting tomorrow.
It had only been a day since we’d been to the Warehouse and in that time a squat of about 50 tents had sprung up at the entrance- we made a note to ourselves to stop by after our work in the Warehouse to fit carriers on the newly arrived families.
We have become the “shoe girls”. We just automatically go back to the far reaches where the shoes are to be sorted. It is a crap job. While 3 of us were sorting the other 3 were pulling items for our squat visit today and our 2 camp visits tomorrow. Katrina runs the day to day operation at the Warehouse-Fadi is also there, he is the face of the Warehouse-he also collects and delivers aid to the camps. Sometimes in his van, sometimes in huge pallets loaded onto semis.
Katrina is about 65 years old and is one who rarely finds joy in life. It has been my personal goal to butter her up so that she doesn’t give us a hard time when we pull the aid we need. I know, crazy as it sounds-she is VERY protective of the Warehouse. Today’s treats were scissors and Easter chocolates (Easter is not celebrated here until May 1). 2 days ago I brought her cookies and coffee, but the 2 bags of coffee disappeared. Fadi always has a smile-if in any small way you or your organization is looking for a way to work with the refugees and perhaps the camps are scary to you- please consider work in the Warehouse-
There are about 55,000 refugees in Greece today. Many refugees are reluctant to go into camps because they ultimately want to settle in Germany or Sweden- we have noticed an increase of police activity and presence the past few days. The rumor is that the refuges from the port area will be settled in the Ikea pod camp-Skaramagas in the next few days.
We were stopped by the police 2 times near the Warehouse- the word on the street is that the police will be
rounding up the squatters and putting them in camps. On the way out of the Warehouse area (used to be the domestic airport- 3 of the huge buildings house refugees, there is a squatters camp and basketball stadium used for aid donations) we stopped to put carriers on the new families in the squatters camp. But on the way there we saw some families walking and stopped and asked if they wanted carriers. We cannot just hand them out- we fit them on the mom, dad or sibling first. Many of the carriers have protein bars stuffed inside with a little letter from the donor and sometimes a little treat. I especially like fitting a sibling and then taking their hand and placing it on the pouch with the donations. You don’t want them to open it then and there- as there is usually a crowd around and chaos reign. But the universal sign for “shhhh” works every time. Their eyes light up when they feel the treats in the porch. A boy of about 10 wanted to be fit- but his sibling was back at the camp-he was wearing mens’s shoes literally about 2X larger then his own feet. I had young girl 13 helping me fit carriers, she spoke a little English-it breaks our hearts to see these young kids being robbed of their childhoods. One of our team members broke down today- silent sobs that cut thru all of us. A small refugee boy about 8 had tapped her on the shoulder while she was fitting a carrier and asked “are the borders opening soon?”
My head spins sometimes from the whiplash speed we enter back into the real world from the refugee world. For lunch we followed Rita along the coast to a fabulous sea side restaurant. We all put our pasty white feet into the Mediteranian – ate fantastic Greek food and laughed. Laughed a lot. After lunch we stopped for about 10 minutes at a spring fed lake- it is used for restorative purposes- it was packed. It looked like 80% of Athens was out and about today. Either driving or stopping by the sea.
sea side lunch
We had about 45 minutes at the hotel before we had to go downtown Athens to deliver some aid to a squat of 150 living in 2 houses. An SOS had gone out yesterday so we brought carriers too. Parking is NOT fun in downtown Athens- when the team entered the house most of the families were on the 2nd floor. When we meet a new community an English speaker usually comes forward to help us. We all were identifying red vests and have a bunch of carriers strapped to our mid sections. Today a young man greeted us-“But first-I welcome you” and offered tea.