Everyday the Iris Center keeps tap of the families that arrive. There are morning and afternoon groups of people who either walk the 1.5 mile walk to the Center, or one of the
volunteers will go and pick up those who need a ride. Shoes are left at the Center’s door, the kids race to take toys out and the older kids will sit at the activity table and paint, draw or make jewelry. Today there were over 60 people that visited.
Sara and I have settled into a familiar rhythm, helping where we see there is a need, doing what is asked of us and whenever a baby comes in making sure that Mama has a baby carrier and a swag bag of baby items. The Center is really a little UN- today visitors hailed from: Yemen, Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Syria and Lebanon. Faces to the horrors of wars that are plaguing the planet. But they are really just moms, dads, sons, daughters. Looking for a better way. Wanting to live without war. Wanting more for their children.
There is a small restaurant owner at the beach town we are staying at who also runs a free vegan kitchen for the 7 different NGO’s working with refugees on the island.
Everyday a big pot of food is prepared, dished into buckets and picked up by the various NGO’s so that the volunteers and refugees can eat something. We went to the kitchen to pick up todays meal for our Center and also went to a warehouse a couple of doors down that distributes aid at the camp.
Baskets of aid lined the walls and big bags were being prepared for todays distribution. The weather has turned since we arrived a week ago. Where the days were warm and the nights just a little cooler, now the nights are cold. Jackets are needed.
We did a big aid run to the biggest grocery store on the island to purchase diapers. We filled 3 carts to the brim with diapers and need to return tomorrow to do the same. Learned that each family is given 10 diapers every 5 days in the camp. The Iris Center supplements an additional 10 diapers every 14 days. The math does not add up to anything but diaper rash and crying babies.
There was a rumor that about 200 refugees were going to be transported to Athens today. This is a step closer to resettlement for many. At dinner we saw about 100 refugees making their way to a ferry. Carrying their worldly possessions in boxes and in bags. Heading off to the next step.
Unfortunately for every person that leaves, there are more to take their space in the camp. This week alone there has been a beach landing everyday. At the center there are a handful of translators- 2 of them have been in Vial for over 3 years.
One of biggest underserved populations are the 18-22 year old single men. Boys really, who have left family to find a better life and eventually settle and be able to send money back home. For me they remind me of Max and his friends, their mannerisms and the way they kid each other. I cannot imagine Max or any of his friends alone- having crossed countries in search of a better life. It hurts my heart to see their brave faces when telling us bits of their story. We know we are only hearing snippets because the real stores are pock marked with horror we cannot imagine.
We are so thankful to know that there are so many NGO’s working to make lives a little better in this hell on earth. A limbo that has no end. Far from perfect, and not meeting all of the needs but at least a slice of humanity.