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. Had 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
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 miscellaneous 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 amazing- 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 we 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
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 spread 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.
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.