So Jen and Amanda from Team 34 left today- we were able to hang out the last couple days- we also got to hang out with part of the next team…..Team 35 that leaves for the island Lesvos tomorrow night. So I’m going to call myself “Team 34-3/4th’s” since I spent the most time with them!
Amanda left at the crack of dawn but Jen and I were able to eat breakfast together- so many of us follow each other on social media that when we finally meet in person it’s like that friend you haven’t seen for ages, but you fall right back into the groove!
We’d been staying at a hotel that was located near the ferries- most of the early CTF teams stayed in this area while they were fitting carriers on the waves of refugees as they transferred from the ferries to the busses that would take them North 7 hours to the Macedonia border where they then would start the walk to Germany.
Today I moved closer to the Athens city center. Today was the Athens Marathon- team member Susannah from Team 35 ran in it! So impressed! Many of the roads in the city center were blocked off so I waited until late morning to work my way towards the new hotel.
I’d posted pics of the hunger strikers earlier in the week- when we were at the Lavrio Jumbo Jen purchased a big plastic bin of art supplies to give to the kids whose parents are on the hunger strike. She was not able to deliver herself so I did. Google maps brought me right to the bridge they were on- I circled the area and found a parking space. Walked the couple of blocks to the hunger strikers and found a shade structure that had 2 volunteers sitting. Most of the tents were quiet – looked like most were still sleeping. They were very excited to get the bin of art goods and said the kids would be so happy.
Wound my way back to my car- many of people had finished running by this time and the streets must have just been opened up. People still in their racing clothes and bibs were flooding the streets wrapped in those shiny blankets to keep them warm.
Checked into the hotel- when we are on a trip we have minders that help us with our
itineraries and we talk to many times a day. Amy told me about a refugee art opening that was happening and I had some time before I was to work at a food kitchen so stopped by. It was a lovely space filled with art from about a dozen artists. Each artist had a bio and picture near their art.
Kayla Martinez is a rock star unicorn in the refugee world who helps artists in camps around Greece not only make art by getting materials to them, she hosts art shows in Europe and the US every couple months highlighting artwork available for purchase. Not only does this provide an income to the artist it keeps the refugee situation in front of people who may not know what is happening or because of waining media attention think that the situation has gotten better. She’d just returned today from an island doing a week of beach duty meeting the boats as they arrive from Turkey. Arrivals have increased like mad these past couple of months.
My next stop was an NGO called “One Stop” that sets up, prepares and distributes food and tea on Sunday and Wednesdays for refugees and the homeless. I was put on cabbage
chopping duty and later tea duty. In addition to One Stop there were medics helping people on an as needed basis and a van with 3 sets of washers and dryers that people could have their clothes washed. So brilliant!
Between handing out hot tea and chopping veggies I spotted a mom with a baby in a carrier and a dad holding the hand of a 2-3 year old. The carrier was REALLY low on the moms stomach so I stepped over to them and asked/mimed if I could adjust the carrier. The baby was Hannah- and she was 1 and about the cutest thing i’d seen for days. Full of smiles and giggles. Dad could speak English well and told me they were from Iraq and had recently arrived to Greece. He had worked for the US government and his life was now in danger because of this work. So they fled. He has contacted his supervisors from the US government but has not heard anything. This is such a common story- to common. He does not want to register in Greece so he lives under the radar- no housing or stipend, no medical care………there are literally 10’s of thousands of people just like him.
Dinner was with the founder of Hope Cafe, a couple of her volunteers and 2 volunteer nurses from the UK here in Greece working for 3 weeks. Kerrie has Hope Cafe and the Free Store open M-F and on Sunday’s has medical teams use the space for free clinics. For her vacation a couple of weeks ago she went to an island and helped with boat arrivals.