The past few days have been a massive blend of work and more work. When I am not actually doing “volunteer” work, I am on my computer doing work on a larger scale. Since we (the volunteers helping with the refugee crisis on Lesvos, Chios, Samos, and mainland Greece) are unsure if the current flow of refugees will stop due to military action, we must look for new opportunities to help the refugees. In two weeks, we have no idea if those volunteers that continue to help the refugees in Greece will be criminalized for “human-trafficking” or whatever the EU and FRONTEX wants to charge us with. The flow of refugees has slown down, and if the military takes over the waters, then there will amost be no need for volunteers on the island.
Sometime next week I will be taking the ferry across to Turkey. There are at least 2.2 million known refugees in Turkey, possibly upwards to 3 million refugees there. I have spent some time searching the web and social media for indicators of where help is needed, but it seems that everything just points to Istanbul. There are roughly 50 more camps south of Istanbul, most closer to the Syrian or Iraqi border. I intend to go for 2-3 days to find where help is needed most, since Istanbul seems to be the “Lesvos” of Turkey. I have talked with some others, and they suggest that Jordan and Lebanon need the most help. There are 3000+ volunteers working on the refugee crisis in Greece, and all eyes are looking east. Someone needs to find out where these 3000 should go, as well as the several thousand who have already volunteered and yearn to return, and for those who have not volunteered but have the innate desire to help.
Turkey is also where one of the orphanages that Mari and I have been interested in looking at so we have an idea of what we are getting into when we establish one in Greece. Already my NGO from Lesvos has put me in contact with people there as well as asked if I was interested in volunteering there while I remain out of the Schengen for 90 days due to my visa. Things are slowly starting to fall into place, another 15 days and Mari, Kristina, and Marian will be back on the islands. Soon we will be able to begin figuring out our funding for the orphanage, logistics, administration, and bureaucratic loopholes that we must jump through.
I have had the honor of working with Medecines Sans Frontiers/Doctors Without Borders these past three days. The first two days they sent up 12 of their employees to aid us (the municipality volunteers) at the warehouse. This has alieved a large amount of stress off of my shoulders. We were able to get ahead on shoes that needed to be ready to be sent to the port-camp for wet refugees, as well as sort through over half of the unsorted children and baby clothes.
I was very fortunate that there were several women that knew the difference between baby clothes and children’s clothes as well as the difference between 0-2, 3-5, and 6-8 year olds. If it had been myself, there would have been boxes that said ‘baby clothes’ and ‘children’s clothes.’ They made the job for the volunteers changing wet children at the port much simpler and efficient while also relieving myself from getting aggravated volunteers.
Today the lead coordinator of the municipality volunteers and myself met with and coordinated with some of the MSF (Medecines Sans Frontiers) logistics coordinators. Since we give them some of our boxes of clothing to distribute in the camps, they swapped with us bag-packs, ponchos, and UNHCR gloves, hats, and scarves. The repertoire has slowly begun among the established NGO’s here, which will alleviate problems with different groups distributing simultaneously, sharing of resources, and tensions. This also allowed me to speak with the logistics managers about future work possibly with MSF. They told me that I should apply for a position, that they could put references down for me, and that though French is very important, it is not totally necessary. They did tell me that my 2 years of French will help, and any other studies in the language would be an aid as well. I must retain this information for future use, for I still have an orphanage that needs to happen.
The rest of the day I assisted the lead-coordinator, Vale, in small tasks. For the past 4-5 days she has been escorting journalists around and has not had the ability to focus on her tasks. Though it was not possible for her to take the day off, she was able to focus on tasks at the hostel versus running around Vathi/Samos town on errands. Thankfully there are long-term volunteers to shoulder some of her work: Saleh who runs the port, myself who runs the warehouse, Melinda who handles the children and women changing, and Elyssa who bridges all of the gaps.