When I was here with Team 8 in April, we visited 2 times a camp in a sea side town. Two of the buildings full of Kurds, the other building with Afghans. Usually these
2 groups do not get along- but here they do. The Kurd side is where we had our baby shower, not even knowing about the Afghans until one of our Kurdish translators asked us to go “see the Afghans, no one has been to see them yet”.
In April there was such a palatable sense of desperation in these camps, “shoes” “please we need clothing and shoes” we would hear looking down to a young boy with pink princess flip flops on.
Today, there was a difference, while not an acceptance of their circumstances, there was not the desperation we had felt and seen before. I have kept in touch with an Afghan family from this camp. The 2nd oldest daughter and I have been communicating on
Messenger these past 6 months. She always begins her texts with “I hope that your family is well”. We talk about what is happening in their lives- how school
is going how her siblings are doing (she is 1 of 6-3 boys/3 girls). I had told her I would be visiting this week and we anxiously have been messaging this week.
One of her younger brothers was outside to meet us when we arrived- full of smiles. Yesterday we had filled 17 bags from the big box store with food,
cleaning supplies and candy for the children. There also were 2 pregnant women in the camp that needed to be given baby boxes. Tariq set up his white back drop against one of the camps walls. Of the 17 families in the camp all but 3 families had been there in April and May when we had visited. I felt like a long lost Auntie, not believing the children had grown so much in 6 months!
Once the food and baby boxes were distributed we went up to my friends room. Now imaging a room- 14’x14′.
In that room a stove top/oven, a refrigerator, clothing cupboard and 1 bed. Now imagine this is your home……and there are 8 of you-6 kids from 5-20. No private space, bathroom down the hall, only 1 bed. Unimaginable to us. We took our shoes off at the door, coffee was made and served with homemade cake and cookies. Isn’t this always the case, those with so little so willing to give. We then all went outside to have the little boys bring all the food bags labeled to the correct rooms- Tariq was doing his photography and i’d brought a Polaroid from home that turned out to be a HUGE hit with the children.
We then were told that lunch would be served and to please come upstairs. We dutifully filed back up the stairs into their home and sat around on the floor as a table cloth was laid down and a beautiful presentation of food was laid down before us. They have so little- so gracious. So kind.
At one point we could not find
Tariq but we were told he had gone to the sea side, we were pointed into a direction. I’d never walked that way before and the difference was staggering. Where refugee children play, 20 feet away is a beautiful sea side resort town, the harbor filled with sail boats and yachts. People lazily eating and drinking at the cafe’s that line the walk way.
Good bye were hard, but our wish for them is that we would not see them in Greece again, rather we would see them in their newly settled countries. Further away from a home that did not want them and towards a new normal.
CTF had contacted us about going to another camp in the area I’d never heard of- “no one goes to see them” we were told. After a couple wrong turns, we found the camp, down a gaveled road, tucked being a garbage pile on one side and a composting pile on the other side. 30 families were fit into 15 Iso boxes that should have housed 1 family each. They were in need of blankets, food, shoes……really everything. I promised to give their list to the CTF powers that be so that a future team can grab the items from the warehouse and distribute to them.
Quietly we left the camps, all of us deep in thought. Images of today will be in our minds forever.
We stopped at the Temple of Athena, on the sea side, up on a hill. So beautiful.