The team has gotten into an easy and familiar rhythm, up for breakfast chat about the day, figure out coordinates on the 3 phones that work here in Greece then head out.
Today our 1st stop was at another Yizidi camp-this one supported by an Arizona NGO. Both Aline and I volunteer at a refugee support non-profit in Phoenix and this NGO is located next door to where we volunteer!
We were only about a 30 min drive to the camp and used that time to try and call our contact. We could get ahold of her so I had us pull up the road from the camp entrance. Two big vans were hard to hide, and easy to find for the kids. Like pied pipers as soon as we stopped our vehicles, we could see the kids come running in our rear view mirrors. Smiles and “hello friend” rang out. Kids know that vans mean aid and that aid may mean something they could use!
It is always amazing the number of kids that speak at least basic English- many of these kids have not been in school for years but clearly someone has been teaching them.
Our contact came out and she went and asked the notoriously difficult camp manager if we could bring in baby boxes- yes. What@!!! Yes!!!
This NGO has a warehouse space they have rented to support the camp. She asked us if we could help transport boxes from the warehouse to the camp. All aid distribution happens differently at at every camp. Some are setting up a “boutique” style distribution where certain days certain tent numbers can come to a space were clothes are displayed as if in a boutique. Other just choose what goes to what tent, others don’t have access to aid.
The day before the whole camp of 400 had been given access to the warehouse and they picked out the items they needed from boxes: shoes, pants, shirts….these boxes were labeled and since the NGO only has 1 teeny tiny car, it would have taken them a week to transport all the boxes. We unloaded both of our vans and started packing up the boxes. Ming won the biggest helper award- she had 2 boxes at her feet and one on her lap for the drive back to the camp.
We were able to pull into the camp to unload, this is always the easy part.
People come from all over to help unload. We then had some time to go hand out a couple of baby boxes!!! The 1st baby we saw was 10 days old- it was sooooo tiny. She was #5 for this mother. The baby was in a handmade cradle, clearly made out of an old pallet. I asked to hold the baby-and as a true mother of 5 “yes” was the easy answer. Like a feather! We were able to get some photo’s of the baby inside of the baby box. It was so cute the older siblings would come over
and kiss the baby. Clearly loved and now will have some basic baby goods and a safe sleeping space.
Walked around the camp a bit- mostly tents, with gravel and mud between. As you walk down the rows of tents you smell the fires burning- sometimes warming water to bathe with, other times the smells of veggies cooking. Women bend over plastic bins washing clothes, clothes are hung from every rope available-just like home, the wash is never all done.
We loaded up and headed to a Jumbo for another run-
we were getting some soccer balls, volley balls and looking for a bike. To late in the season for bikes so we grabbed some scooters. The next camp I had visited in May. It is located in the middle of fields and was not very friendly to visitors last time- this time included. The protocol to get into a camp changes with the whim of the leaders in the camp. Even giving them 2 days notice was not enough, they needed 4. We asked if we could distribute the baby boxes outside of the gate and shrugged shoulders was the answer. We took that for a yes.
The afternoon light was fading and ideal for shooting so Tariq set up his backdrop and the NGO that supports the pregnant and nursing mothers gave us a list of the 5 families with babies under 3 months and the 3 pregnant mothers.
They all came out to grab their boxes and if they had a baby we got to ohhh and ahhh over it! We had a refugee helping us, his English was excellent- we asked him if he had had his resettlement interview yet- the 1st step in the long path to be settled. He had had it 2 weeks ago. Refugees list in order of where they would like to go- they get to choose 10 places. His 1st choice was Ireland because 1. he wanted to improve his English and 2. he wanted to go into tourism and hospitality.
We asked where he was from “Syria”, “Is you family here”, “No they are in Syria”. He was a 20 year old boy who looked much older than that who had crossed by himself to resettle. All of his family was still in Syria. Once again…….I cannot imagine.
We are heading back to Athens tomorrow after stopping in 2 camps on the 6+ hour drive back. Out to dinner then back to the rooms to get packed to move.
We organized the vans and left a bunch of our extra aid here for the warehouse that is housing the baby beds. They support 2 camps here in Northern Greece and we know the items will go to where they are needed most.