As with most best made plans, they are subject to change. We woke to a nice and cloudy Athens day- after a very yummy breakfast we loaded into the vans for a quick ride the the Salvation Army warehouse about 15 min from where we are staying.
It is a testament to the great drivers in van #2 that we arrive at the same place! Urban Athens driving is something to behold-with a couple wrong turns we found ourselves in front of the big green door of the warehouse. Inside-
just feet away were 100 baby boxes we were to make up for our Monday deliveries……..but alas it was not to be. We eventually got ahold of a warehouse manager who’s only reply was “open M-Fr 8am-4pm. So much for that job. With a helpful suggestions to CTF staff we rearranged the rest of our days in Greece and headed off to shop for The Orange House we would be going to in the afternoon.
But first we needed to buy food and cleaning supplies for the Orange House. We’d passed what looked like a big box store on the way to the SA warehouse, found it on GPS and headed over. Now it did cross our minds that this might be a “membership” kind of club, and there was some sort of scanner near the door we entered in……….but I figured the Universe would provide.
Fresh food, meat and cleaning supplies were needed. In the end we had filled 3 carts and 1 flat cart with goods. Of course we added to the list-thinking of the many children in the center goodies for them was added. We went to check out, there were perhaps 15 lines to choose from- I just choose a “random” one. I asked the couple in front of us a question, she inquired about who we worked for and what we were doing (we had our CTF red vests on) I told her, then asked “why 2 prices on all the items”. She looked at me, at the carts……”do you not have a membership?”. “NO!”. “Here, come with me, I work at the corporate headquarters”. So to the membership desk we marched, words were exchanged, sometimes heated, lots of pointing to my vest and boom- a day pass!
We returned to our line, a big hug was given. Thankfully Rachel thought that maybe we should shop for tomorrows squat we would be visiting- I am basically thinking one day at a time this point in the trip! With that we scattered again to find items, all the time looking outside the big windows to what had to have been one of the biggest rains Athens has had in a long time. We could not see even to the end of the parking lot the rain was coming down so hard.
We payed and loaded up the vans- next to the store was a little coffee/snack shop. We stopped for a coffee……..or 2, grabbed some sandwiches and started for the Orange House.
The Orange House is located in the center of Athens and like so many others
before her, she is a twenty something who started volunteering in a hotel housing all the unaccompanied minors……….unaccompanied minors. Imagine how bad it has to be at home that a mother send her 12 year old, 13 year old, 14 year old……….from their home , on a journey involving smugglers, a boat crossing in boats that are know as “death rafts” to a land is foreign in more ways than can be counted.
During her volunteering she knew that she had to be done- thus the Orange House came into being. Red tape is keeping the unaccompanied minors all in a hotel near by but she has housing for a handful of single mothers and their children. Daily classes
for the people that live in the house as well as the refugee population around Athens. A safe place for homework help, good wi-fi and always a caring volunteer to help in any way.
We mostly easily found the apartment. We were greeted with smiles and laughs by about 8 volunteers that came out of the house to empty our vans. The founder of the house Marina. We placed all the donated items into their basement storage area which also housed a cool courtyard with an amazing mural and a classroom. Literally every space was being used. We chatted with the volunteers mostly from Canada. We got a tour, chatted with some of the kids. We were offered and served yummy tea (very sweet). Again the space is filled with volunteers from around the globe taking time, months, to help in any way. So very uplifting.
We returned to the hotel and had about 90 min before we were to meet Chloe
(she we with CTF Team 8 when the baby box program was born). Chloe is from Paris, her day (now night job because she is at the center so much) job is to help place students in families in Paris for exchanges. She has a 15 year old son and like so many she was drawn into this crisis by just wanting to help. She was working with an NGO that supports pregnant and nursing mothers with access to midwives, lactation specialist and nutrition. At the port area before it was cleared out of refugees, she worked in a RV that had a bathing place for the babies! Volunteers would get to help wash babies- Nirvana!!!
Today they are housed in an apartment near to Victoria Square that houses many squats and refugees hard sleeping (as in ON.THE.GROUND). They give prenatal help to women in need, have a safe space for mothers and mothers to be to be with people like them selves. So beautiful . As is the case- supposed 100% by donations.
Chloe and 2 of the midwives joined us in Athens center for a great dinner. We were able to walk around a bit before dinner. At least the team got to see a little bit besides camps and squats!