New Year’s Eve was a little busy here on the island. Not that the holiday was the reason, but rather we saw a large portion of the refugees in the transition camps load up on ferries to go to mainland Greece/Europe. Over 1 Million refugees funneled through Greece last year, of which 800k crossed the island of Lesvos first.
It was very cold and windy so there were no boats that came across. All of us volunteers were happy to know that the smugglers/mafia weren’t making the refugees risk it. We still hold our concerns as to what is happening on the other side of the straits.
I spent most of my day at “Lighthouse 1” which has no actual lighthouse. This is one of the points on the island the Spanish, Greek, Norwegian, and Dr.’s Without Borders rescue boats help guide the refugee boats to. The NGO (Non Government Organization) that spends the majority of their time at that location is called “Lighthouse” therefore the name. There are a few tents that allow the refugees to change into clean, warm clothes that have been provided either by donation or purchased through donated money.
Most of the patrol points overlook the straits, so when a boat is seen, they will notify Lighthouse 1 or 2 as well as all of the rescue boats. This allowed myself and the two other volunteers from “A Drop in the Ocean” to sit inside the tents and try to stay warm. There were two different film crews there as well as three Greek lifeguards. It was nice to sit in a circle and just talk and tell stories.
The other two volunteers with me, Marian and Mari, are two Norwegian girls. They had initially planned on spending their holiday on the US west coast, but when Mari saw the story of the refugees their trip changed immediately. They decided instead of going and spending money and time on themselves that they would spend 5-6 weeks helping the refugees instead. Amazing women.
There was a duo of reporters from the UK doing a documentary on the refugees. They had traveled the whole migratory path, been beaten by cops, arrested, had cameras broken, etc. but they were going to tell the story. The producer was paying for all of this out of his pocket. His cameraman had an excellent story. He himself was from a family of refugees. His family fled from Cambodia during the deathly reign of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge. He felt inclined to tell the story of the refugees since he too had an identity with them that he could share. I look forward to seeing this documentary, I cannot elaborate on it much more for their sake, but what I saw was spectacular.
After the shift was up, the girls went to Camp Moria to say goodbye to some of the families that they had been working with. They were all heading to mainland Europe. It was great to hear stories like “My family stopped crying on the phone, because they knew I was safe.” But then there were stories like this, “We will go to Sweden, and if they don’t accept us, we will go to Germany. If they don’t accept us then we have to return to Afghanistan where they will make us into Taliban, for that is the only option the Western world is giving us.” Society is creating their own monsters.
Supper was a good time, I ate with one of the coordinators, her family, and a few other volunteers. Maria the coordinator had just landed on Lesvos a couple days prior. This was her second trip, and she didn’t come alone. She towed her along four of her family members as well. I was the only one at the table that wasn’t Norwegian or Swedish, but I couldn’t tell the difference. I was accepted, part of a group. I felt at home, we laughed, we cried, we told stories.
We followed our supper with some light festivities, we couldn’t go to hard since we may be needed in a moment’s notice. We went to Hotel P where a few more volunteers from my NGO and some 20 others were celebrating the Eve. There was a motley assortment of volunteers from all over, but everyone was having a good time. Even though most didn’t know each other, everyone immediately walked up to everyone said, Hi, I’m so and so from X country. We all shared food and drinks, played games, danced. It was the most memorable NYE that I can think of. I was surrounded for once in my life by good people, who all just wanted to make the world a better place at the sacrifice of their own wants. I could have asked for no better group of people to end and begin a year with.