Found out from another aid worker who is staying at our hotel that E2 (port area 2) had indeed been moved, but just down to E 1 -1/2. She said it was mostly peaceful-with only a little resistance. Their NGO was asked to not come back until 11:00AM today instead of their usual 8:00AM arrival. Such is the whim of the Army. They buy and bring down extra food for the kids and mothers.
My guide Laurel aka: Siri/Tramp was not on my side this morning as we drove out to start our day. She had run over the children’s store Bimbo (ok, the real name is Jumbo-but I can only remember Bimbo) to grab some last minute things for the baby shower. Sara had run to a bakery to get some cookies and a cake for the shower and the rest of us were
charged with getting to Starbucks to get some coffee for ourselves and for Katrina at the Warehouse. The latest strategy is to kill her with kindness………….or in our case, with Starbucks coffee. We were going to take a van load of aid to the Kurds and Afghan camps and needed to be ready for the fight. We had packed up some aid when we were there earlier in the week and hid it. We were hoping it still was there.
Because Tramp was not at my side we got mad crazy lost. It was actually funny- we just could not get to where we were supposed to be going- at one point we were going down a street with maybe 1/4″ between the parked cars and our car-eventually we did make it-the bakery when told what the cookies and cake were for gave Sara another cake. Most Greeks are amazing when it comes to this crisis.
We drove straight to the Warehouse- the squat surrounding the area has grown in the last 2 days. Wondering if some of the people from E2 have made their way down here. Our stash was still hidden and Katrina was not even there! We loaded up the van-like LOADED- everyone including me (ok, I only had the pillow from the hotel) had extra stuff at their feet and on their laps.
It was an easy hour drive to Lavrio. Our weather has been lovely- maybe 80 and sunny our whole trip. Very nice. When we arrived at the camp I backed in, and we were greeted by
the people in the courtyard like old friends. No Army at these 2 camps, but there was a Red Cross person. We had the guys unload the van for us after we said hello to everyone. We then sent the English speakers to go and get all the pregnant women. We were told there were 12 pregnant women in the camp. We had “reserved” the tea room-a common area where someone has set up tea and snack sales . Within minutes the women and their children started trickling in. We had the baby bags we had prepared earlier in the week to give to them: a couple undershirt, onesie, hat, socks, wipes, diapers, blankets, mom pads, small gifts for the Mom (no “push”rings). Just the basics.
The tween girls kept trying to get in-the boys would have nothing to do with us. After the bags were passed around we passed around the cake and cookies. The tea room people had made tea for everyone. The small children got suckers, slowly the room filled with more and more women and children. It was a true party. At one point one of the women had 4 of the teenagers come forward and they sang us about 5 songs. Everyone was singing along and clapping. We sang “Lean on Me”-
After a couple hours Danielle went over to the Afghan camp to start cutting hair (she had brought her instruments from home)- they had requested it earlier in the week. I drove the van over (it is literally the next building) and Sara found the camp “leader”. This camp is not so clear as to who is in charge-there is not a central storage area like in most camps. It is also smaller with 17 family units and about 100 people. We eventually got it figured out and all the aid was put into one room-almost immediately people started pulling Sara into their rooms and saying the aid would not be distributed evenly- so of course we got involved.
We walked around making sure all of the aid was distributed. Most was basic: clothing, food, shoes……I had brought the stroller i’d brought from US- one of the families really wanted it-it took some talking but I eventually got it out of the leaders room. I knocked on the door there were 8 men in the room, the stroller was out of sight and I just walked in the room like I was looking for something else and asked about it. Oddly I got all emotional – I choked up with frustration. Frustrated that they were fighting me for a stroller, frustrated that these people were even in this situation. I then asked them what else they needed – there is a person that works loosely with CTF who has been working mostly at the port area- with that closing soon she is looking now to get regular deliveries to the camps instead of these SOS’s that go out and whom ever can runs aid out to them.
Shoes, always the shoes. No one has decent shoes- we did bring 2 huge boxes but it was not enough. The also wanted razors and clothes for the coming hot months. Oil for cooking. I could not promise them these things-but said I would try and make sure that their list would be given to someone who might be able to bring items out to them.
Laurel and Gillan were in a room making friendship bracelets with the young girls of the camp. They were having a great time- the girls picked it up in no time. I sat on a mattress on the floor with the mothers. One woman who looked to be my age was in fact only 32- we find that people look decades older. One of our interpreters (he was 28 but looked 40) told of walking out of Afghanistan across Iraq. He left because he had been a coach and “bad men” told him he had to tell his students that “the government is bad”. So he and 20 other people he knew started walking. He said at one point they traveled at night and had to cross a river with water that rushed up to his neck. He said they put women and children on the men’s back to cross.
Anther young interpreter who was helping Danielle who was cutting hair turned out to be 19. I would have sworn he was 30. His English was excellent- he had spent a year at University. I told him he should study for 1 hour a day. He said “how?”. I said “on your phone”. He said “it got lost on the way to Greece”. Also on it pictures that will never be recovered, contacts lost forever.
We left the camp with lighter hearts after all of the squabbling had died down- but a little sad as this was our last day visiting camps. We are all drained- while uplifting work we are all tired. Anxious to get home and see our families but heavy hearted leaving so many in dire conditions. About 90% of this crisis is literally being handled by volunteers. From Greece, from around the world. We cannot unlearn or unsee what we have experienced this past week.
We made our way to Poseidon Temple along the coast not far from Lavrio- it sits high on a hill with views of the sea and surrounding islands. We had a snack then lounged along the cliffs, sunning our legs and talking. The temple looming near to us. We could see for miles-eventually we all loaded back into the car and made our way to a sea side restaurant just below the Temple grounds. This would be our last night together as a group – tomorrow night we will be joined at the hotel restaurant by all the people who have been helping us Chloe with the baby bags/boxes, Rita from CTF, Fadi from the Warehouse and a couple more. Time has flown.