The day dawned bright- our weather has been on the cool side. Our goal today was to
visit as many camps that we can that are listed on the UNHCR maps in this area that CTF has lost contact with, or are new camps. The situation in the past 12 months has been very fluid in Greece. Camps opening, closing, people being moved from camps into apartments and hotels. We were able to visit 4 of the 5 camps on our list for today. We couldn’t find the 5th camp……..
As it was Saturday and many of the NGO’s working in the camps were not there, but we were able to get contact information for 2 of the camps and the 3rd camp we met with a Swiss NGO who works with mothers and children- they were thrilled to hear about the work that CTF does. She wanted us to visit a near by camp they also support and we followed behind her car up and down and around fields of poppies to their “sister” camp. It was one on our list!
We were to deliver beds, strollers and diapers later in the day so we said goodbye and went back towards town to find a Jumbo to buy the items. Decided to stop for lunch- which was a bit of a walk to find a gyro place. It was very good- the Jumbo did not have the size 7 diapers we were looking for, but they did have the magnifying reading glasses I needed to see since I lost my only pair this morning. Somehow. Somewhere in my little hotel room.
We found the diapers at a grocery store, but since they were on sale we had to have 3 people use 3 different credit cards to purchase the 1 month supply of diapers for 2. It all worked out and we headed back to the camp to unload our beds, the strollers and diapers.
This camp was a little over a year old and housed vulnerable people- sick, elderly, pregnant…….they had so many wonderful programs available to the families: playgrounds, class rooms, women center, tea room, places to shop with points
they get and can earn (the latest way to give dignity and a slice of normalcy),
gardening, sewing, kitchens to cook their own food in, inside soccer areas (it snows up here!)…….it was really beautiful.
We asked how often they receive new families and our tour guide said “not that often” but “last week we had a mother, father and 2 boys who where found near the Turkish border brought to us”. With one days notice they were told they would be receiving 2 paraplegic twins (11 years old-hence the size 7 diapers) and a younger brother. The rooms are located on the 2nd floor of an old plastics factory-thankfully an elevator was available to move people to the 2nd floor if needed. Imagine their horrific story- finding their way from Syria to Greece carrying the boys- and because this is not awful enough, the younger boy is showing signs of paralysis as well.
I find myself at times being lulled into a false sense of security for the refugees we meet. Thinking that the camps and all the supports are so wonderful, only to be reminded that no, this is not ok. Even with 100’s of support these are people without homes and voices. Much of the world has forgotten about the conflicts that have displaced millions of people in this world. Two paraplegic brothers are a grim reminder of the magnitude this holds for so many.