Last day in Athens- home

Decided to move to the airport hotel tonight as our flight left at 6:00am.  We had breakfast, got packed up and headed to the van.  Organized what aid we had left and headed to the port to work once again with The School Box Project:

The kids were REALLY busy.  With the rain over the weekend – I am sure having to be stuck in their tents made for very active kids.  Lots of fights- Zach went and played soccer with the boys and I got out the coloring books and pens.  New faces today- but many of the same old faces.  As the little ones would drop into my lap while I sat on the ground coloring and sharpening pencils, everyone of them had damp clothes.  Thankfully the sun was shining and I am sure the mothers and sisters were busy washing clothes after the rainy weekend.

We got to see one of the HUGE ferries leaving the port area- amazing!  We still had the  stroller we’d brought from the US so after the School box closed for lunch we went over to the Stone ware house to find the baby caravan. It is run by Amurtel Greece, they have a camper parked on the side of the Stone warehouse where mothers can come and visit the midwife, get supplemental food, vitamins and bath their babies. The woman working was very thankful for the stroller and when asked what else she needed she said the CONDOMS! She has over 1,000 being delivered later this week and the mothers were in desperate need. She was leaving a bit early to bring 2 young mothers with possible yeast infections to a Greek Dr that does pro bono work with them.

Ferry pulling out-

We next headed out to the Warehouse to get another load to bring to the Stone warehouse at the port and try and get some food and items needed for the baby caravan.  It was not to be- Katarina was not in, and when I spoke to her by phone she said that all requests must come directly to her by email- such a frustrating bottle neck.

Later in the day Shawn who is an American helping out with the food project and warehouse duties at the Stone House warehouse at the port called me asking where the items he requested were. I told him what was happening and gave him Katrinias’s contact info. Many of the volunteers do not rent a car, instead they rely on public transportation (which was on strike over the weekend)- remember they are 20 somethings on break from studies or lives taking time to volunteer.

Skaramangas- bigger then when we visited in April

I also received a call from the people making food in the Stone warehouse I wrote about earlier in the week- on our layover in Paris one of the project founders called me on my Greek phone because they had heard about me having access to food- their donations were running up and they were in need of food.  I too gave them the low down on how requests must be made and told them that there was lots of food in the main Warehouse.  Here I am a mom, from Phoenix, Arizona getting calls- this totally encapsulates the issues everyone faces- no real person in charge, volunteers foreign and Greek isolated on the ground working 7 days a week doing amazing work under very difficult situations.

Since we still had the van we were asked if we could bring a load over to Skaramangas the camp that has houses the refugees in the Ikea pods.  We loaded up and headed over to deliver- since their main big warehouse is not done being secured they are using a small pod to store necessities.  A Norwegian NGO was working on getting it secured and were to start this week and finish within 2 weeks.

We then headed to the airport to turn in the van and check into the hotel.  Our flight out of Athens was delayed, which would have made us miss our connection in Amsterdam.  Headed to the airport at 5AM and KLM let me go on an Air France plane connecting thru Paris.  We did miss our connection in LAX to Phoenix,  but I was able to purchase super cheap tickets to Phoenix from LAX.  We landed at 5PM Phoenix time, had enough time to go home take a show and head to Mae’s school for their “Memory night” that started at 6:00pm.

All in all we visited 13 camps/squats, drove 1,250 miles and I would say it was a great trip- I imagine heading back in Sept or Oct when the kids are back in school.  It was such a gift to spend the time with Zach- on the cusp of adulthood, and see what a great person he is.

I will keep up with our amazing Team 8 from Carry the Future and will continue to get updates on the ground from people in Greece.  Thank you for taking time out of your day to read a little bit on what is happening  in Greece- this crisis needs to be spoken about and the refugees advocated for.  This situation is not going to resolve for many years.


Road trip day II

825 miles, 1 night in a 1 star hotel, 8 camps, 2 refused entries into camps (could not even get into the town of Idomeni and after driving around Nea Kavala we were kicked out-no problem, we handed our aid just outside of the gates to a local NGO supporting the camp) and a thermal pool visit.

We were up about 8am- the band played only until about 1AM.  The hotel was packed with a bus tour group and a team of kids in a taekwondo tournament.  We still had about 1/2 of the van filled with aid to hand out.  We headed straight North toward the Macedonia

An epic shit-show should be the name of Eko gas station 

border which is the site of a camp called Idomeni.  As the crisis unfolded and the borders were closed people got stuck at the border and in squats near to the border.  After about 40 minutes of driving in beautiful country side we came upon the Eko gas station squat- tents set up around a high way gas station- 1100 people.  The rains from the day before made for a very wet and muddy camp.  We found the kitchen and asked if there was a warehouse.  The tent that was making supplemental food had maybe 8 people chopping veggies – maybe 1/2 were foreigners- the rest refugees.  Everyone looked tired.  “No warehouse” was the answer.

The refugees came up to us “shoes?”.  They then would point to their wet clothes and down to their shoes.  We quickly started distributing shoes- about 100 people were standing in line- we maybe had 100 pair.  We gave out all of our shoes- but many people were turned away.  It is heart breaking to be shown a barefooted toddler’s foot – only to not have that size shoe.  Rita plans to return next week and will have mostly shoes to distribute.

We slowly drove thru the camp on our way back to the highway- this was by far the worse camp we have seen- everyone is waiting for the border to open.

Next we started toward Idomini and on the town outskirts in the middle of a bridge was a police stop.  We provided our papers (passports and id’s) only to be told we could not enter.  Rita will work on getting registered with one of the groups allowed into the camp before she returns next week.  There are about 10,000 people living literally on the border blocking the rail line that links Greece with the rest of Europe.

We turned around and headed to another camp near by.  We passed another gas station

Water logged camp.

with refugees camping- such a mess.  New Kavala (a camp built for 2500 but housing 3979 people) is a camp controlled by the Army- we initially were let in to drop aid in the warehouse but were quickly told to leave.  It looked like wood have just been delivered- everyone was going to 2 dropped piles of cut wood and bringing, dragging back to the tents.  Everyone had a fire going in front of their tents- to boil water for tea and for warmth.

As we were leaving the camp we ran into a refugee that works with a NGO that has a warehouse near by and they support the camp.  He gladly took our aid- the most

Sorting and picking up wood.

successful camps/squats are those that are self governed.

Next we headed to Cherso- a camp housing about 1000 people.  White tents lined into the horizon on an old Army base.  Seeing my red vest the Army IMG_2741person at the gate waved us toward the Red Cross tent.  We quickly were assigned an interpreter and he helped get the warehouse opened by the Army.  As Rita and I were dealing with getting the aid unloaded Zach went off and started a soccer game with some kids that had been playing with a flat/broken ball.  He used our last soccer ball (until our next visit to Jumbo).

Zach playing soccer.


The young kids helped us to unload the van- they wanted so badly to help.  Sometimes a really small child would grab a really big box, we all would laugh at how silly it was.   We unloaded the rest of our aid.

A flock of cranes were flying overhead- circling the area.  This camp, like many was

Circling cranes.

literally in the middle of nothing.  Perhaps there was a water near they were looking to land at.

Our next and last stop was to be at a camp located in the city of Thermopyles- about 3 hours South of where we were and about 2 hours from Athens.  We easily found the camp in what looked like an old abandoned hotel.  Next to the camp is a sulphur thermal bath that anyone could go and use- the smell of sulphur was strong and a sign warned not to be in the water longer than 15 min.  A car load of Romanians braved the cold and were soon swimming in the river.  We headed up to the camp.

Distribution was happening by a group of people (mostly from England) who looked to be Anarchists.  A pregnant woman came up to us and I asked how many pregnant women were at this camp.  She grabbed my hand, led me into the building, up the stairs to a room where she knocked and a very pregnant woman answered the door.  On the way up the stairs we passed a mom holding a new baby- 1 month old.  Found out that there are 7

Thermopyles- nicest camp we visited-electricity AND running water!


women pregnant in the camp, no Dr has visited for pre-natal.  They are transported to the hospital once they go into labor.  I told them, now 3 pregnant women had arrived, that I would try and send the midwife up to them.  Chloe who we had dinner with earlier in the week visits camps with a midwife.

We headed back to Athens, dropped Rita off at her house and headed back to the hotel.IMG_2754  Got back about 8pm and quickly headed out to dinner.

Had such a great road trip- Rita has a long list of camps and needs for the north part of Greece- a good start for adding onto her lists.

Zach slept most of the 5 hours back to Greece- he woke up and waded in the thermal waters.  He is doing really well- and has been such a great help.  He does get nervous when people crowd around- but we just tell him not worry.

Don’t think he will make this a regular part of his life, but his eyes have been opened to this crisis.




On the road again.

Woke at 4:30am, before my 4:45am alarm.  WAY to early, but we wanted to get on the road as soon as possible.  We were picking Rita up at 5:30 to head up to the Northern area of Greece near the Macedonia boarder to visit camps.  It was to deliver the aid we had loaded earlier and to scope out the situation for Rita’s work with  Carry the Future and her nonprofit Allied-Aid which will be distributing sun screen in the very near future.

The Greek highway system is toll based, which means they are lovely.  We stopped after about 3 hours on the road at a restaurant to grab some coffee.  Rita had bought some goodies for the road trip at a bakery near her house as we were leaving Athens.  Greeks celebrate “name days” more than they celebrate birthdays- today was a very popular name day so bakeries would be busy all day.

It literally rained all day, our 1st stop was a return trip to Petra- this is the Yazidi camps weIMG_2722 had visited last month.  We quickly unloaded the aid, spoke with a few people and headed out.  The road to Petra is a zig zag road up a mountainous road.  We came upon a shepherd, his 2 working dogs and about 50 goats.  It was like a post card.  We patiently waited for them to pass- and since we went the wrong way on the very narrow mountain road, got to pass them again when we turned around and headed back down the mountain.

Rita had done some amazing work on collecting data for all the camps located in the Northern part of Greece.  Our goal was to visit as many of them as we can in 2 days.  The 2nd camp we visited was literally underwater.  It was a

The warehouse surrounded by water.

newer camp-2 weeks old with a couple of different NGO’s supporting the camp.  There was a big problem in that 1/2 of the tents were under about a foot of water so the volunteers were scrambling to get dry clothes from their warehouse which was surrounded by water, up to a central distribution point.  All the while there were heated conversations going on with the refugees- I assume over the fact that so much had gotten ruined in the rain.  As IMG_2725we unloaded our aid into the warehouse I have no idea why we are still not stuck there as the van got stuck in the mud-like really bad stuck!  Back and forth I went until the van finally made it up to a dry patch of land-

As the squats are being emptied, these camps are springing up all over Greece- there are currently over 60 camps with more planned.   We next went to a camp that was entirely set up inside of what looked like an old factory.  About 1,00o people with more arriving daily.  The tent ropes were hammered into the cement.  This camp was also new, and given the fact it was out of

Rita and I getting ready to fit baby carriers.

the rain we spent a couple hours here.  The new camp director from a Norwegian NGO who was American was there helping to settle literally newly arrived refugees just getting off buses from Idomeni.  Her parents were visiting and you could tell they were driving her crazy.  When the parents heard we had shoes in our van they had Zach try and find some shoes for a couple of the kids that either didn’t have any shoes or had inappropriate shoes on – a cute 7 year old boy with girl shoes on.

We also passed out about a dozen baby carriers.  Even with this being a new camp it was already bustling- a “store” was set up outside one of the tents, people were walking between the rows of tents selling items and as the call to prayer went out, we saw the prayer tent.  About a 20 pairs of shoes outside the tent and people facing Mecca and praying.  We got to hold and love on some babies, our hands were always full of little hands dragging us from tent to tent to show us the tents with babies in them.

We stopped at another camp near to this one and we were told that they had a warehouse full of items- well this is what the Army officer told us at the gate he was guarding.  So no aid delivered here.  But part of the bigger picture is less than 5 miles away a camp with nothing and then this one with to much.  That will be the biggest hurdle moving forward is aid distribution- apparently there are some warehouses in these parts but as always getting aid to camps is a big issue.   Most of the aid has been focused up here on helping the 10,000+ in Idomeni, but they are trying to close Idomeni and the other squats down and getting people into these more “permanent” camps.

There is what sounds like a 15 piece Turkish band playing in the hotel room across from  ours- no, like for real.  And for real…….REALLY loud.  Somehow I only packed 1 of my ear plugs so should be interesting to see if we get any sleep.

Like Energizer bunnies.

We both slept in a bit- me until 8 and Zach 10:30.  Had to wake him before the buffet closed at 11.  We were on the road back to the warehouse.  It is about a 20 min ride without traffic- with traffic, sometimes as much as an hour.  There is a train station directly across from facility- but so nice to have the space.

The Stone Warehouse at E1 1/2 had requested another load of goods.  First we did our daily stop at D/Jumbo to get some soccer balls and games for the project we had worked at yesterday down at the port.

Supposedly there were to be 30 volunteers working- when we arrived there were at leastIMG_2719 that many.  A group of college students were working helping to sort the Spanish aid-another container (2 of 60) had been unloaded and  needed to be sorted and put away).  Our list was simple- summer clothes and shoes.  We took all of our needs from the pallets of Spanish aid, no need to resort.  Soon the van was loaded to the top and we drove back down to the port.

One of the things that has changed in the month since i’ve been here is that the port is SOOOOO much more busier.  Were there was a view across the port area now is parked a HUGE ferry.  So the children play among the chaos of loading cars and semi’s, the foot traffic of the holiday makers and the cars whizzing past to get either out of the port or in line to leave the port on a ferry.

We were mobbed at the Stone house- women wanting clothes for themselves and kids.  L

We then ran over to the School Box Project pod and delivered the bag of goodies.  The girl that runs the project was just retuning from lunch-we found her in the parking lot with some of the kids we had played with yesterday.  Once again many hugs and kisses- we drove to the pod while she walked.  To walk with a bag of toys here would end disastrously – there would be kids fighting and in tears.

She was so tired- she said she could not remember the day of the week or what month is was.  She was going to take the afternoon off and have some of the other volunteers work. I said “maybe a weekend?”.  She said “No, the children would be confused”.  The work is endless here- time suspends.  Days turn into weeks, weeks months.IMG_2720

Returned to the Warehouse to load up for our road trip tomorrow-we will head north to the boarders and visit 4 camps.  We were LOADED.  We stayed until late to help sort items with the others.   Rita is coming with us so we will be crammed into the front seat until we unload at the first stop-

P.S. this is not my damage to the van- this van has been driven like a rental like no rental i’ve ever had!  Whole body looks like this.

From warehouse to warehouse.

Have purposely left our schedule fluid so that we can maximally deliver aid daily-but not with a set schedule in stone.  This of course brings a certain amount of anxiety to the Type A personality I have.  Today was a perfect example of why this was the best strategy.  HadIMG_2706 wanted to do some work with children- there is a very well know project called :School Box Project Athens located at E1 at the port.  Zach and I headed down there in the morning but first stopping to look for a new food prep project located somewhere in port area.  Could not find the food prep so we waited around for the workers of the School Box project to turn up.

Located between the port and a highway, wedged between rows of semi trailers is this little gem.  The young women who run the project  (again early 20 year olds taking a break or gap between studies) arrived and like a message came out over a loud speaker only the children could hear……..the children came running from all corners.  1st task of the day is to set up the shade panels.  One of the girls called out “monkey’s” and a smiling face would appear over the edge of a container and we would hand up a string to connect the shade.  Next carpet and floor coverings were brought out of  the pod to set up under the shaded area.

The pod has mostly art based projects – paper, colors, pens……very organized.  Zach brought a bunch of boys to go play soccer with a group of boys behind the pod, I sat with the littles and started coloring.  It soon became a tracing time- as we would take turns tracing each others hands and coloring in the images.  As soon as you step foot in any area

She sat next to me for 2 hours- this young bride of 18- 

that refugees are present your hand or your lap are instantly filled with children.    A girl of 10 with the most intense green eyes came and sat by me and her little brother (with equally green eyes sat on my lap).  She held in her hand a little white purse about 4″x3″-simple pleasures.  She wanted to show me what was in the bag- with smiling trusting eyes she looked up at me and poured 5 rocks from the bag into her hand.  Her treasure….she showed me how she plays a sort of pick up game with them.

Soon her mother showed up to mediate a fight- then a couple more teenagers- I went into the pod and got some pages from the adult coloring books i’d brought for just such a time- older girls/teenagers.   Soon 2 more moms joined us and a couple more kids.  Everyone took turns with the pencils- patiently waiting for the right pencil.  We admired each others work- children would come up and bother the moms- babies would crawl in our laps to watch.  It was so peaceful-

A volunteer from Japan who had just come down from Sweden where he had spent the year studying was also at the pod, he and Zach played soccer with the boys.   Zach and I were going to go to the warehouse to work for a bit as we had heard they were getting a big container today-and I wanted to organize aid for our weekend road trip.

Where yesterday the reception area of the warehouse had been mostly empty-today it was FILLED with the container of aid- pallet after pallet lining the walls.  All from Spain and the boxed beautifully labeled- women’s summer clothing, children hygiene, men’s shoes…….we started in sorting the basic hygiene boxes.  Lots of medical supplies, shampoos and soaps.  I was the energizer bunny running diapers to the correct area once we had filled a cart.

As we are going to visit 4 camps over the weekend, decided to just grab 4 miscellaneousIMG_2709 boxes of “hygiene”.  This of course upset the usual rhythm of the warehouse where every sorted box must be sorted again- I smiled, said “no problem”.   Soon we were told to stop for a break…….we had eaten our energy bars and fruit on the drive over, but when Fadi says break you break.  There were about 15 workers working today- the most i’d ever seen.

A table had been set with refugee meals warm and ready to eat- on top was a slice of french bread.  At first I said “no thank you” but when I saw not everyone was eating thought I would try it and see what the meals were like.  Well I can report they are bland, undercooked and frankly so bad I could not eat more than 5 or 6 bites.

The container had come with the woman who coordinated the shipment of the containers. She had arranged with family and friends to have 60/SIXTY containers shipped to individual camps and to the warehouse between today and the end of June.  Truly IMG_2710amazing- shocking actually!   She was in contact with someone at the port who worked in the stone house warehouse and they were in need of summer clothing so we loaded up the van with mostly her aid – not yet “sorted” but clearly labeled.  28 boxes in all- we drove around a bit at the port but eventually found the person we were charged with finding to show us where to unload-inside a big stone building without electricity was a room with clothing- mostly Winter clothes-as it is getting hotter every day in Athens they needed it switched out.  People out walking stopped by to see what was happening- at the door next to where IMG_2713we were unloading was the supplemental food prep area i’d heard about.  The meals provided to the refugees by the Army have been decreasing in size so many of the camps/squats have begun to make extra food-3X a day.  For this location that meant an additional 4500 meals had to be prepared daily.  An amazing production in a room without electricity – about 15 volunteers cooking in great big vats, cutting up fruit, laddering food into containers.  It smelled amazing!!!  We were asked to return with anther van load of aid tomorrow and they were going to pack up the winter clothes to return to the warehouse until it is needed.

While the van was being unloaded a women carrying a small baby walked by- I have a big

Tents near the Stone House.

bag of baby carriers always in the van so asked her if she wanted a carrier.  She smiled- I told Zach to take the baby (which he promptly fell in love with-6 months old and a smile that would not quit).  It is such a beautiful sight when that baby is placed in the carrier, against the mothers chest- both mother and baby relax.

We dropped our friend Yoshi off at the metro where he would return to his hostel and IMG_2718spread the word that workers are needed at the warehouse.  We went home for much needed quick shower and headed into the center of Athens to meet with a friend who works with Carry the Future- she does the baby bags and helped with the baby shower we put on last visit.

The Acropolis in back ground- again.  We still have not been!

She is busy continuing her work with pregnant mothers and babies.  Her dream would be to open up a respite house for mothers and babies to return to after being released from the hospital.  None of us can imaging being released from a hospital and returning to a tent with a new born baby.  She also would like to find a big van to bring a midwife from camp to camp for pre/postnatal visits with mother’s and children.  Her 15 year old son joined us for dinner- he reminded me of Max and his friends.


We have fallen already into a nice routine- I am up after about 6 hours of sleep go to the breakfast room to fine tune plans for that day, plan next couple days, write and Zach arrives about 9 and we have breakfast together.

Yesterday we were heading to Ritzonia- this is the “best” camp in Germany that we visited and gave baby bags to during our last visit.  I needed to go see the volunteer who runs the women/children’s tent.  The day before a big SOS went out that they needed water.  Over 1000 people call this home- with no running water all water must be brought in and with the increase in daily temperatures water is in big demand.

Stopped off at the warehouse and loaded van with water and helped unload a couple big vans of aid that came in.  Zach got a work out loading the water onto the cart and we both did loading it into the van.   It is an easy drive out to the camp- we stopped at a Jumbo to buy 10 soccer balls to bring.  Zach learned the valuable lesson that one should never give soccer balls directly to the children as you will be mobbed – which he was.

Zach bringing the last 2 balls to the tent of the person who runs the nightly football games…..

We arrived just as lunch was being distributed- looked like chicken nuggets and rice.  Found the camp leader (another 25 year old) told her we had water for her and a message from Katrina (from warehouse) that they had a full container from a Spanish NGO coming with 1/2 food-1/2 clothes tomorrow.  She turned white and wanted Katrina’s number.  Storage is always at a premium at the camps- it needs to be secure.  They are out of storage options at the camp.

Zach went off with the kids and I went to the women and children area.  A new container has been placed and volunteers were busy building a 2m high fence that the women will be able to come into, take their conservative outer wear and relax.   The door handles will be up high so that the little kids will not be able to come in.

The NGO Light House Relief (from Sweden) is in charge of this area.  The same woman is inIMG_2702 charge as last visit, although she looks about 10 years older.  We went into one of the tents to talk, a young girl kept popping her head in.  Supposedly she was 18 – I said “no, she looks more like 13 or 14”, Mae’s age.  Well “her” story is that she is 18.  She is 4 months pregnant but has not gained any weight.  They are worried for her.

A big problem at the camp is because of lack of running water to make baby milk is not allowed- BUT, if a mother is not able to nurse then how is baby able to be fed?   The coordinator looses sleep over this.  They also need to have birth control pills to hand out to the women- right now they do not have access to any.

We were at the camp for about 3 hours.  Zach had 2 boys hanging on him the whole time- they wanted their own footballs.  I don’t think we could ever buy enough for everyone…..the need is so great.  IMG_2703

The Red Cross has built a water processing plant, but no well.  This is the camp that has been in the International news because they are going to add a garden- the land has already been cleared- maybe enough time for a crop this year.

Met some other groups here visiting- met a woman about 70 who was here trying to maybe do baby boxes with a group of women from Montana and Canada.  The older woman had been volunteering on Lesbos island- the epicenter of this crisis until Mar 20, 2016 when the flow of refugees was cut off by a treaty between EU, Greece and Turkey.   I love meeting all these people who have been drawn this crisis- such an interesting group.

It was a bit tricky trying to leave the camp-the 2 boys would not let go of Zach.  A volunteer saw our predicament and lured the kids away with his phone screen- he had a little boy on his shoulders……….

We drove back to Athens, a nice drive.  Hit a bit of traffic and as usual it was 8pm and we

Acropolis behind us…….

were STARVING and just trying to figure out dinner.  We eat breakfast in the hotel and carry energy bars and fruit with us to have for lunch.  Hotel staff told us of an Italian restaurant not to far away so headed to a touristy area to walk about and eat.  It was such a beautiful evening- had to wear my coat as it was a bit chilly!

1st full day in Athens……

Well we hit the road running…….stopped at a Jumbo on way from airport to hotel (kids/dollar store every 10 kilometers or so in Greece) and grabbed 20 soccer balls.  We didn’t arrive to the hotel until about 6:30pm so after we organized the aid we had brought, unpacked and just headed up to the roof top restaurant to have dinner- always such a lovely view and with the sun setting nothing nicer.  Slept like babies, nothing like 30 hours of travel with little or no sleep to make that next sleep that much sweeter.

Had to get a SIM card for a phone i’d brought from home- double parked for 90 min while Zach was in the phone store getting everything set up.  We were loaded and ready to go.  Many of the camps just provide GPS coordinates, so a phone is very necessary.  Then headed to the warehouse to load up for a return visit to Lavrio.

Filled 3 trollies with loot!

The warehouse is mostly as we left it- even with aid leaving daily, it is still packed.  Seemed to be more food then last month.  Once again was back in the shoe area packing up boxes of shoes to bring to the 2 camps.   Katrina- the Keeper of the Warehouse was very kind to us (ok, i’d brought them all somethings from US:  cookies and packing tape dispensers)  and as we were finishing up she kept giving us more items:  baby food, baby cereal, diapers, toys and food.

This was my 3rd visit to Lavrio- our Team 8 visited one of our 1st days and we returned at the end of our trip to do the baby shower for all the pregnant women.  This camp will forever hold a special place in our hearts.  There are 2 buildings of Kurds and another with 17 rooms of Afghans.  Had split the van as we loaded so as that there was stuff for both sides.

And we are off….

Since our last visit the Kurd side had added a kitchen, well since it looks like a school the kitchen was probable already there- they were just using it now.  The kids are used to vans coming so as soon as we backed in we were swarmed with kids looking into the van.  As we climbed out of the van our hands were filled with little hands looking up at us with smiling faces.  Soon a chain of children would form and everyone would swing their arms- together if only in that moment.  The children soon spotted the 2 big bags of soccer balls.  Smiles and pointing are universal- we knew what the children wanted.  It was so nice to see so many of the same faces as last time- these are the faces that haunt many of our dreams.  Like most refugees in Greece they are not registering hoping to go onto Germany.  As was the case last month, it is doubtful that Germany will accept more than the million refugees they have already taken in.  Having not registered, the people cannot work, kids cannot go to school (local schools, NGO’s are starting to set up schools in camps and most camps have had teachers step forward and have some sort of school happening).   People just get stuck.

As is usually the case a long line of people materialized and 1/2 the van was unloaded in minutes.  We loaded back up and headed over to the Afghan side.  Again, so many smiling remembered faces.  There are 17 rooms here, mostly filled with families but a couple rooms with just men in them.  One with 3 generations, a single mother with her parents and 3 young children.  They all live in one room with mattresses lining 2 of the walls and bunkbeds the other.  One of the girls whose English is excellent helped us translate- I had baggies filled with donated make-up (thanks Sara and Jess) to hand out to all of the women- had JUST enough bags.  I asked her what else is needed- she said nothing……”what about tea and oil?” I asked.  She said a Norwegian NGO had visited a couple of weeks ago and bought everyone oil and gave paper, pens and books to the kids.

Most of the rooms had cooking hot plates-so I suggested we go get eggs,sugar, oil and tea for everyone.  She came with us to bring us to the store.  We cleaned them out of black tea, had to grab green tea for the rest of the families.

One of the faces that haunted me was a girl with twist ties in her ears keeping her pierced ears open.  I could not remember where I saw her but prayed to the Universe I would see her again.  When I visited the Middle East when I was 16, had bought 2 pairs of gold earrings and had brought one of the pairs to wear until I saw this girl again.  In line at the grocery store as her heard scarf shifted and her ears were exposed I found her.

I said I wanted to give her my earrings….. adamantly she refused.  Well, guess who won.  We went back and forth for many minutes.  I tried not to cry as I told her how important it was that I give them to her, that I remembered her, that she may need them someday….  and that I had wanted to find her and give them to her.  After much back and forth she took them.

She is one of 6 kids, 3 boys and 3 girls.  Her older sister is 20, she was 19 and the rest fall behind her down to a 5 year old brother.  Her father worked for the CIA and has many aunties in the US-that is their ultimate destination.  She told me of her beautiful house back in Kabul, not to brag but to tell me that this is not her or her family.  Not how they would choose to live- 8 people crammed in room no bigger then a standard master bedroom in the US.  Forced to leave Afghanistan because of the fathers work with US government.  These are the faces of the wars and conflicts that circle our planet.  Families wrenched from their generations old homes, forced to walk 100’s of miles only to end up not where they thought they would be.  A wall to the tippy top of the sky that still needed to be climbed before they were back to any semblance of normalcy.  IMG_2690

Zach is doing great- drove him around the port area when we returned from Lavrio.  They have condensed all the tents to 2 area’s instead of 3.  But now busier as the tourist season is gearing up there are now ferries and cruise ships at the slips by the refugees.  We will return to work here later in the week to take a shift or 2 working with the kids.

Rita met us for dinner- so fun to see her smiling beautiful face.  She continues to work full time and spend every weekend working with the refugees mostly in the port area.  With donations she was able to purchase a used 9 passenger van that is used by one of the Warehouse workers to deliver aid during the week (Fadi) and to take the refugees on outings during the weekend.  So far they have visited the zoo and last weekend a park.  Little things that are being lost on these children who have seen things you would not wish upon anyone.




And we are off……

It wasn’t hard to imaging going back to Greece……..all of us from Team 8 with CTF (Carry the Future) left last month with heavy hearts, missing our loved ones (and pets) yet feeling like there was SOOOO much work to be done.  A seed was planted, and when I looked at my calendar I saw a sliver of time in May that might work.  Thinking that it would be great to have Zach withIMG_2654 me (our 20 year old who just finished his freshman year at Northern Arizona University), ok, to be honest not only great for him but great for me to have someone strong helping me load the van!   So here I sit on the first leg of our flight from Phoenix to LA looking forward to a week+ in Greece.

We have packed 3-50lb bags of aid, mostly donated.  While the warehouse in Athens is packed with donated aid, we were asked to bring underwear, bras and flip flop plus a bunch of other things people so graciously gave/sent to us or bought:  adult coloring books for the bored teenagers, pregnancy tests (some of the camps have requested) and make up-oh, and stroller to give away.

At every turn during our last visit we were repeatedly asked for shoes…….seems like everyone had on very inappropriate shoes….to small…….to big…… our main mission will be to distribute shoes-to camps and squats.  I have a rough plan as to where we will goIMG_2658 but have kept our schedule open to see what it feels like once we get to Athens.  Have rented the same old big ass van, so will have plenty of room to load items into.  Will miss my CTF Team 8 girls……but will carry them near my heart as I know they will be with me is spirit until we can gather again!  It really was such an honor to work with this amazing group that gathered to make a little bit of a difference last month- and whose mission is not finished!

Zach and I will be staying at the same hotel we stayed in last month- Zach will be my navigator but will miss Laurens subtle directions in my ear……..won’t stop believing until we meet again.