We arrived in Athens about noon yesterday- a short 35 minute flight. We went immediately to two IKEA’s in Athens to collect children’s potties. CTF will be launching a new initiative to provide potties to camps. We’d already cleared the airport IKEA of potties last week and they had not received a new shipment since. The Athens IKEA had 40 potties so we cleaned them out too!
Last night we went to One Stop, and initiative that feeds unregistered refugees and the
homeless in central Athens. Two nights a week One Stop provides dinner, medics for people to see if they are sick and a van with washers/dryers so that people can wash their clothing. Dinner prep was in full swing when we arrived at 6:00pm, but a school had donated home cooked meals and salad with messages on the lids that we distributed to those around the area. We went out in all 3 times, carrying the food between us, finding the most vulnerable and offering them food. Our leader was a Greek social worker, a vision of grace and beauty. She spoke to them as if she were speaking to a dear relative. Her voice full of respect, a smile on her face.
We returned to help the other 20 or so volunteers hand out over 400 meals. I had worked with this group a year ago and at that time they were feeding 200’ish a night. The need grows. So many of these initiatives/NGO’s run on a shoe string. Their impact is a tremendous necessity to such vulnerable populations. We helped to clean up around the area and finished about 10:00pm. A quick dinner around the corner from our hotel finished off the day.
This morning we drove about an hour to a camp that houses 1500. The unofficial camp
“mayor” (a Greek volunteer who has worked at this camp for 3+ years) met with us and the Army representatives who officially run the camp about a possible collaboration with CTF. It was great meeting and many ways CTF teams can help. We went on a tour of the camp- in addition to the ISO boxes there were 2 new buildings- permanent that had been build recently. An indication that Greece knows that this is the future for many refugees. Isolated camps. No country. No citizenship.
Dotted around the camp were other NGO’s and their ISO boxes- one was a school where
teachers from the Netherlands taught English. “The children are so eager to learn- they sit on the edge of their seats eating up the lessons. I wish my students at home were the same!”. “No kidding” says every teacher, everywhere!
We were invited into the home of the resident “artist”. His box the center of many activities including art and music- he gave us a snack of flat bread, ghee and homemade apricot jam and played his sitar – a traditional song. Haunting and multi-layered.
We saw the “boutique” where residents can shop for 3 pieces of clothing every 3 weeks and the women’s center where women were doing yoga stretches and movement class.
The mood was light, the children were laughing. A couple children drove bikes around
the fenced and barbed wired perimeter. The fences not to keep them in as they were able to come and go as they liked. But more likely, the fence to keep people out who want to harm the residents.
We drove the beautiful drive back to Athens and stopped along the way collecting
diapers at 2 different stores, we even found some potties at Jumbo! We also stopped at the main market to get bulk goods for our distributions tomorrow. The van was loaded!!!
We went back to CTF storage and organized the bins, added labels and grabbed the last of the baby beds.
The super moon watched as we made our way to dinner- a vegetarian place not far from our hotel. A great way to end the day. Good food, great company.