200 tickets.

The day before yesterday Ali handed out 100 tickets in the camp for toiletry distribution. With so many new arrivals and knowing this disto Janne felt we could handle a larger number.  So yesterday he handed out 200 tickets.  While maybe we had 20 single men or women, the rest were at least a family of 4, sometimes even larger.  Which means, all in all toiletries were

handed out to about 1000 people of the 4000 currently living in the camp.

We started our day going to the city center to pick up items purchased from the 1 Euro store.  Because Janne purchases so much from them she is able to purchase everything for .85 Euro.

While in town we also got more tickets to be handed out for distro, coffee, a bakery run and for me to add more data to my burner phone (which I have to do every couple of days).

Back to the container area to load the 3 vans with items to be distributed.  We followedIMG_E3369 Janne in her van and we could literally see the wheels bending in from the weight of the aid!

We returned to the same spot, along a long winding dusty road out of sight from the camp but within a 5 minute walking distance.

Ali and the team had been in place for the previous 2 hours for line control.  We later learned that people started lining up at 4am.  Someone had started a fire to keep everyone warm while they waited.

We quickly set up as it was a repeat from a couple of days perviously.  At 11:00am the first person stood in front of our desk and we started.

The weather was perfect, a cool breeze and the line manageable- meaning no one rushed our area.  People are so appreciative for the items and when they sit to get registered

with Janne and I they usually have a concerned look- tired from all the waiting I imagine.  But they pass us by on their way back up the hill, back to their tents with a “thank you!”  a smile, and it there are kids a HUGE smile and a wave of the teddy bear they’d received.

Today we had a kitty hanging out in front of our desk most of the days.  The kids would squat down to play with it while they waited for mom and/or dad to register.

We all went to eat dinner after we’d finished the distribution at 5:00pm, returned to the container area to drop off the recycled boxes and any left over aid.

A very full day, but we will sleep well knowing that the families who did receive items today could in turn sleep a little better.


Our mornings are spent sitting on the balcony, looking out at the sea.  An our or so of peace and quiet.  A time to sort the things we have seen.

Today was a hygiene distribution.  We’d gone to the 1 Euro store to purchase: deodorant mens/women’s, toothpaste (no need to purchase toothbrushes as our dentist Dr. John Harmon amazingly donated 465 toothbrushes!) , washing powder, pads, razors, sponges, shampoo and body wash yesterday and to day we met at the container area to load our vans.

Yesterday 3 of the interpreters/refugees who live in Vial went out into the 2 of the 4 areas and handed out 100 tickets to new arrivals.  This could be a single man or woman or a family of 6, each equaled a ticket.

We arrived on the dirt road down the hill from the camp at almost 11:00am for the 11:00am distribution.  There were 5 of us in the CTF-Team 60, a new volunteer from Norway and the 6 interpreters who we’ve been working with all week.  Janne held a quick meeting, everyone went over their jobs.

I settled into the chair next to Janne to help her with inputting the info into her computer so that she can keep track that there is no duplicating of aid going out. Up the hill we can see one of the volunteers with about 4-6 people, waiting.  We give a wave and they send the person/family down to us.

Handed to me are either the individual cards from the Greek government or the papers that are given to brand new arrivals.  A 6 digit number is what Janne enters into her computer and I look/shuffle through the sheets of paper finding out if there is a wife or husband, any kids, ages of the kids.  Sometimes there is an interpreter available to help, but with so many languages being spoken I often point to my left hand and wedding band to see if they are married, and mime rocking a baby to see if there are babies.  Fingers are held up to tell the ages of the kids.

It’s a trail of humanity that stands in front of our little table.  Our team had purchased 2 new stools for us to sit on so we had the other stool available for people to sit on if they wanted to.  Tired moms, a grandpa with a crutch and sometimes little kids were on the stool.  Janne and I make sure to make a connection, even if so very small, to everyone.  Oohing at baby, smiling at their picture…….letting them know that we see them.  Not just their number.

A couple hours into the day the stapled papers of new arrival was put in front of me.  Smiling I looked up.  A boy stood before me.  A child.  I quickly looked to see if there were more papers then the 2 assigned to every person.  No, just 2 pages.  He was alone.

I flipped to the 2nd page and held it up to Janne so she could input his name.  I quickly scanned the sheet for his birthday.  Did the math.  He was 13.  An unaccompanied minor. Alone.

What kind of world do we live in that a mother sends a child across countries in search of a better life?  Or is there not a mother and the child see’s moving forward the only way to stay alive?

One of the interpreters came to sit on the stool near the end of distribution.  He said “150”.  “150 what” Janne asked.  “150 people arrived last night” was his reply.  It is as if a water hose has been turned up this past week.  Instead of water, humanity.  Men, women and children.

With so many new arrival Janne had us do an inventory at the container area, she ordered more hygiene items that we will pick up in the morning.  Tomorrow we will double our distribution to 200.

It rained last night, we awoke to images on our phones sent to us from inside the camp of water running through the tents, between the buildings.  Puddles the size of cars.  We knew that most of those 150 people who arrived last night slept on the hard ground.  No beds- just rivers of water.  Rivers of misery.

“The rats….they eat her shoe.”

Having already sorted the children’s clothes, we all met at the container area to load the 4 vans with the sorted children’s clothing. Yesterday the interpreters had handed out 100gmoc9848tickets in 2 of the 4 areas for new arrivals. For the 2nd day we were distributing to new arrivals along with the Dutch family. 

With so many new arrivals daily, getting aid out as often as possible is critical. The head of Iris House, Janne works out a rotating schedule to be as fair and equitable to all of the residents.

Even best planned intentions can have consequences- today we learned that while people were told to start lining up at 10:00am for the 11:00am distribution. People actually started lining up at 7:30am.

We returned to the same area we’d distributed yesterday.  This time we unloaded big kjso7847tarps, put the bags of clothing in a row by size and put out a pile of clothing per size for people to shop in.

Once again I helped Janne register the families.  Every family is given a case number by the Greek government and has sheets of papers for each family member if they have arrived within the last week, and a 3 fold card for people who had been here a bit longer.  

Toward the end of the distribution a mom came up to the table with her teenage daughter.  12 to be exact.  The young girl was beautiful and could speak a little English. img_3323 Her mother asked about shoes for her daughter.  “I’m so sorry, we are out of larger size shoes” I replied to mom.  “The rats, they are eating her shoes” the mom pleaded.  

For children 2 years or younger the families were able to pick out 10 items and get a blanket.  For older children up to 14 years old, only 5 items. ergo1522

Families left the area with their arms loaded with clothing or in bags or piled high on strollers.  

We were all tired when we dropped off the remaining boxes of clothing at the container area about 6pm.  In all over 300 kids received clothing.  



Strollers and diapers.

We met Janne and her Iris House team along with some volunteers from Holland at the storage area this morning.  We loaded 80 strollers that had been bought with CTF fundsIMG_3283 and shipped from Athens to Chios into 4 vans- 2 rented from CTF, Janne’s and the Dutch volunteers. 6fe84048-5bc9-41df-a51b-558733657802

We were jammed in our vans as we drove to just outside the camp walls.

Build for 800 today the number in the camp is about 4,000.  It is unimaginable as when the population was 2,000 we couldn’t think it could get worse.

Well it has.  Not only are the strollers needed to get around the camp, they are useful if a family wants to make the 1.5 hour walk to the city.  Taxi’s are available, but they cost about $30 per way.

But the most horrific reason that we learned the families want the strollers for is so that the babies can sleep in them so that the rats and snakes don’t bite the babies while they sleep.


Yesterday the interpreter refugees who volunteer at Iris House and live in the camp went around and handed out tickets to families with children 2 years or younger living in the camp.

The distribution went really well, meaning there were no fights or scuffles.  But as usual, there were about a dozen families that made up the rear of the line, without a ticket looking for a stroller.  Desperate for a stroller.

Janne promised to return when funds were available to purchase more strollers.  That is all she can do, and being the only NGO that distributes aid in the camp, the residents have learned that she is fair and good for her word.

After the distribution a dozen of us met at a sea side restaurant to share a meal and get to know each other.  For the refugee/interpreters it is a semblance of normality that is so hard to find living in a refugee camp.  For the the volunteers it is a way to get to know our brothers and sisters on the run.

After our meal we took our 2 vans and filled them with diapers from 2 different grocery stores her on the island with money donated

from CTF.  Tomorrow we will distribute the children’s clothes we sorted yesterday and we will start opening the packages of diapers and putting them in bunches of 15 to hand our later in the week.

In the dark we unloaded our vans and sat down for a dinner of left overs and food we’d purchased at the store today and earlier in the week.  We are about 9 miles outside of Chios and it is so dark and quiet out here.

It was a perfect way to end the day.


CTF Team 60.

There are 5 of us on this team- 2 i’ve been on CTF trips in the past and 2 new people to me, but not CTF as they have both been on teams before.

Once again blessed with a fantastic team! Eager to start working we met the Iris House team at the container area this morning.

Today we sorted kids clothes for a big distribution we will do on Sunday-

There were about a dozen of us sorting by size, the sun was warm- but there was a nice breeze.

We are staying at an AirBnB a bit out of Chios town but large and comfy for all of us. We arrived in the dark late last night, and woke to this beautiful view.

After about 6 hours of sorting we ran some of the interpreters back to the camp. Not having been there since May, i’d read how overcrowded the camp was and seen pictures on social media but the reality in real time is so awful. Hundreds if people in tents, on the ground outside the camp walls, no sanitation, only the flimsy nylon walls as protection from the sun, heat, wind and rain.

The situation is similar to the scenes from the beginning of this crisis 4 years ago.

All of the interpreters from my previous 3 times to Chios are gone, a new team has taken their place- Farsi, Arabic and French are the languages most people in the camp speak.

My interpreter friends from before have either been transferred to Athens or have made their way to Germany and Holland. Those in Athens are there for next steps, hopefully getting asylum which means they will have papers and can stay in the EU.

Max made it home…eventually.

Like a song stuck on repeat…heading back to Greece.  Same, same, yet worse in so many ways.  The refugee crisis has taken a back burner to the woes of the world.  Yesterdays news.  Borders on almost every continent swarm with people trying to find a better life, safety.

Will be working for the 4th time in a year on Chios Island (an hour flight straight East of Athens) with Iris House- a Norwegian based NGO.  I am part of Carry the Future’s Team 60.  On social media the images of Vial camp (the refugee camp on Chios) are hard to look at.  Women and children sleeping between the containers used as housing, hard sleeping with nothing to sleep on but the ground and only discarded UNHCR blankets to cover them, IF they are lucky.

New arrival numbers from Turkey double and triple what they were a year ago.

Max and I were on Chios in May- he was filming a video for Iris House and we were working helping to distribute aid to the newly arrived.   For 9 days we sorted aid, distributed aid and purchased aid.

(*Spoiler alert, he did eventually make it back to Phoenix).

Instead of the 20 hours of travel it took me to get back to Phoenix, it took him 3 days.

The night before we were to leave Chios, the days distribution had gone especially late.  With so many new arrivals we pulled onto the road towards town just as the sun set.  We quickly unloaded the vans at the storage area- said goodbye to some of the interpreters and those who could joined us at our hotel for dinner.

A group of 10 shared pizza, salad and pasta.  After spending the past 10 days working together the meal had the feeling of a family meal.  Inside jokes, lots of laughs and making sure we were all connected on Facebook or WhatsApp.  A mix of refugees, an artist, interpreters and volunteers gathered and shared a meal.  One family.  Max and I were leaving at the 7:00am flight to Athens so as dinner was finishing Max and another volunteer decided to go and get a drink and I went upstairs to finish packing and get at least a couple hours of sleep.

This “hotel” more like a Bed and Breakfast had 8 rooms, tiny but clean with skeleton keys to lock the doors.  Reception open only in the afternoons, Max and I taking up 2 of the rooms and another person we never met but would hear come in late at night.  My alarm went off to soon, my first thought was “Max isn’t here”.  I shushed my mind, washed my face and got dressed.   Walked the 3 doors down and knocked on his door.  No answer.  Back to my room…text him… no answer.   Needing to leave for the airport a mile away, I tried one more time.  No answer – 98% of my brain thinking “he’s passed out drunk on his bed” the other 2% screaming “he’s dead in a ditch”.  Literally no way for me to open the door or find someone to help.

Had to meet the car rental person at the airport.  Hasib, one of the interpreters had come out to say good bye to us.  “Where is Max?” Hasib asked with wide eyes.  “Either passed out drunk in bed, or dead in a ditch”.  His eyes grew large as the car rental guy showed up to take the vans keys.  3 flights ahead of me:  Chios-Athens-Frankfurt-Phoenix – I figured if I hadn’t heard from him by the time my flight boarded in Frankfurt i’d circle back to Chios.

Checking in the gate agent asked “where is Max Hart”.

“Well, he went out drinking last night and didn’t answer my phone calls, texts or banging on the door this morning – so I figure he’s either passed out drunk or dead in a ditch”.

“How old is Max?” she asked with a raised eyebrow.  “20”.  Shrugged shoulders joined the raised eyebrow.  “Your flight boards in 10 minutes”.  My parting words to her were “I imagine he’s going to come flying in her with his hair on fire when he wakes up…..good luck with that”.  The glassy stare said everything…….sister i’ve seen and heard everything.

Said goodbye to Hasib, he promised to go look for Max if need be.  I promised to keep him updated.  The hour long prop plane left Chios right at 7am.  Phone off and on airplane mode I tried to stuff the voice in my head saying “he’s dead in a ditch”.  Touchdown in Athens, turning back on my phone I can see that Max has not read the texts.  Great, I think.

Taxi to a far corner of the tarmac.  Deplane into waiting buses to be brought to the airport.  My phone pings.  A message from Max.


“Athens….who is this?” was my reply.

“OH MY GOD…..OH MY GOD…..I slept in! What should I do??”

“I’d get to the airport and see if they can get you on another flight”.

Checking in for my Frankfurt flight the gate agent in Athens once again asked- “Where is Max Hart”.

In my head I thought “well now I know he’s NOT dead in a ditch” but said to her “he decided to go out and get drunk last night, he woke up about 10 minutes ago, he’s still on Chios”.

“How old is he?” she asked with a raised eyebrow.

“20” I repled.  Like the agent on Chios the raised eyebrow met the shrugged shoulders.  Must be a Greek mom thing.

Missing his flight to Athens, Max had to purchase a ticket to Athens. In Athens the agent told him that because his ticket was on an airline that did not offer refunds/changes (Condor Air) he would have to purchase a new ticket home.  Which he did with his own money. Can we get an “OUCH!!!”.

What followed next for Max was-

-a 4 hour delay in Athens

-hour flight to Istanbul,

-9 hour layover in Istanbul (fun fact for me, the public wifi in that Istanbul airport is basically nonexistent.

-8 hour flight to JFK

-7 hour layover in JFK

-5 hour flight to Phoenix

Two days after arriving home from Greece, Max came into the family room- looking like he’s spent the last 3 days getting home.  “Traitor” was his insult as he put his bag down in his room.  Followed by a big hug and a “i’m sorry Mom”.

“Max, you need a shower.” was my reply, with a raised eyebrow.