We all have turned into late night owls in our room- I share with 2 fantastic women who each have left 2 kids at home and a husband (not the same husband-Amanda is from Canada-BC and Danielle is from Rhode Island). They have put their lives on hold to bear witness and help in some little way the shit show this refugee crisis is. We are usually up until after midnight posting on social media, writing in journals or playing a few games of Words with Friends at the end of the day.
After breakfast and our daily update from our leader Sara – which we all promptly forgot what she said and in varying ways ask her about another 200 times a day “what is it we are going?” “which camp?”. It drives her crazy. Personally to not be in charge is fantastic for me- a role I could get used to. OK, I do drive but I have Tramp (well der, since I’m the Lady she is the Tramp- team LD!!!) telling me where to turn- how much further, my personal Seri in my ear. And for the record, I have started referring to myself in the 3rd person……
We wound our way around Athens to Chloe’s house- she lives right across the street from the American school and is a transplant from Paris who lived here in Athens in middle school and now is back here 4 years with her 15 year old son. She has a college home stay business she runs from Athens- her new home. It is always fun to see how other people live in other countries. Her flat is fabulous – just like we expected.
the American school and is a transplant from Paris who lived here in Athens in middle school and now is back here 4 years with her 15 year old son. She has a college home stay business she runs from Athens- her new home. It is always fun to see how other people live in other countries. Her flat is fabulous – just like we expected.
She has felt a deep connection to the pregnant and new mothers at the camp-and like many everyday Greece people has taken it upon herself to do something. It was her idea to do the baby bags for mothers just before they go to hospital to deliver. We shopped for her project the other day-she is also hoping to partner with the Finish baby box company to give new mothers a bag of goodies and a box. We were at her flat to stuff 15 bags for 1 of the camps we were to visit today. We were going to deliver 4 bags to mothers who will be giving birth within 2 weeks.
We then loaded into the van and followed Chloe about an hour away to our 1st stop- Oinofyta. It is a new camp (30 people maybe 7 families there 4 days)- where we were delivering blankets and aid to the families. Tents next to the freeway- open field-out in the middle of nowhere with industrial buildings being the closest businesses. There is an abandoned building that is huge- I guess they use it for football/soccer in the evenings.
We parked near a big bus that the 7th Day Adventists had sent that is the medic bus- the actually medic was from Switzerland. He leaves tomorrow but anther person is coming to take his place. Sara (our leader- now nick named Muffy) has been texting him all week. So basically this guy shows up from Switzerland to be a medic in a camp and the next thing he know he is leading the camp. Supposedly 300+ people from the port will be resettled here any day now. This morning during breakfast we saw on local TV in the breakfast room live shots from the port area – the rumors must be true.
As is what happens during most camp or squat visits an English speaker comes forward and is our interpreter the rest of our visit. Today ours were 2 Afghan young girls. When- it turns out they had been at the same camp in Turkey and found themselves settled in the same camp in Greece. Innocently I asked the 1st girl- about her family. She was 16, here with her mom, dad, 2 brothers and a sister. I turn to the 2nd girl, she said she was 13 then her face crumpled, she covered her face and began to sob. Like body heaving sobs. I Gathered her in my arms- all the time thinking of Mae at home, almost same age but vastly different lives. It took her a couple of minutes to say “I am here with my aunt and
uncle and my 2 cousins I do no know where my parents are”. She had just finished tell me she wanted to go to college and be a lawyer to work for women rights. Jesus……..
We went from tent to tent with blankets and women beauty bags from an organization called “Women 4 Women”. Lauren/Tramp was playing volleyball with a group of kids. There were no babies to hand out carriers to. It
was such a difference from most of the camps that we have been to that are bursting at the seams. This camp soon will be too-but for now eerily quiet.
Ritona was a bit easier to find- Chloe had been there many times. It is supposedly “the best” camp in Greece, not many needs. We arrived to a wooded area- from the road you cannot see the camp. We parked the van and followed Chloe to the women and children’s tent. On the walk over we saw the rows of white tents in the clearing of the tall pine trees. We were greeted by a Canadian volunteer who happened to come up from Levos (where the Pope was last week -it has quieted down so she thought she would see what help is needed in the camps). She had just graduated with a degree in nutrition and was appalled by the food that was being provided
to the people from the Army. Starch and carbs- it was the same for all camps. But she
had made a menu for the Army to bid on that included better options, this contract would be in place for 3 camps for 9 months, and she was hoping to hear if Army was able to meet her list. One day you’re all like “i’d like to go to Greece and help with the crisis” and the
next thing you know you are negotiating contracts for meals for over 2,000 people!
Chloe has a list of all 12 pregnant women and their due dates. We were tasked with going to the tent where the woman lived and giving them their bags of new baby swag. We always double or triple up when we leave our group- we found the 1st woman- she was going in next week-this would be her 5th child. Some of the tents have small little sheltered rooms added on by using blankets for walls, branches/trees from the surrounding forest for support and rope to keep it all together.
The location was such that the closest market was 5km away and the taxi ride was over $50USD round trip. Some people take 1/2 a day to walk, some pay a taxi and others just eat the rations given out. We were only able to give out 3 of the baby swag bags. We did get to play with the kids some, hold some babies and hand out a few bags. One of the pregnant women had already returned to Athens- it will be hard to find a new life in the middle of a forest, surrounded by farms miles away from the closest mini-mart. People are bored, children run wild, we met a pregnant woman who was an Arabic teacher back in Syria- I asked her how long ago she had come to Greece she said “we crossed in the death boat 2 weeks ago-you know the death boat?”. She was one of the lucky ones who did not leave a son, daughter, husband…….to the depths of the Mediterranean.