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.




2 thoughts on “1st full day in Athens……

  1. Unbelievable. What a gift you are Jill. And Zach. What an awesome experience. So moved on many levels. Take good care!


  2. So happy for you and Zach. The story about the earrings… ugh… you wrenched tears from my eyes. So proud of you for doing this beautiful and necessary work!


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