Though the majority of my responsibilities keep me contained to the warehouse, I still am able to squeeze some time in to help out at the camp. Last night the refugee children and the local Greek children put up an art display on the waterfront across from the city square. My days of construction came in handy and we were able to build some displays for the art to be hung on. Many of the volunteers spent the afternoon setting up the displays and preparing the event. It was amazing to see all the volunteers, locals, and refugees all together. There was art/drawings to look at, a video of a presentation in the camp was played, some songs were sung, we even had a young-refugee child beat-box. This public display for the local Greeks hopefully will help them understand what we are doing, as well as to the humanity of the refugees.
June 16, 2016
It has been a busy few days, even with the EU-Turkey deal, we still have refugees crossing from Turkey to Greece. Since I have arrived we have received new arrivals everyday other than on Sunday. The numbers in the camp continue to rise, with little to no persons being allowed to leave the island. Whilst the flow of asylum seekers has been slowed, it has not halted those who search for hope. Today, yet another 56 souls climbed onto the shores of Samos, Greece. Today, another 56 humans were clothed, fed, and cared for.
Tensions here in Greece are rising. Due to the refugee crisis, the islands are down 60% in tourism, which is the majority of the island(s) annual income. I had the honor to work with many volunteers in Lesvos this past winter on the Hope Center. Sadly, it will never be open or used. The local municipality there is and will do all in its power to prevent the refugees from ever using it. Many of the Greeks believe they are being punished for their humanity and allowing the refugees to come. I have talked with several Greek friends who work and reside here in Samos. There is no easy answer anymore; the islands are spiraling into an economic depression, on top of the national Greek economic crisis. My dear friend Manolis will probably be laid off this winter, and there are no jobs here. Our only hope is to integrated the local community into the volunteer world, incorporating them into the larger NGO’s that have the funds to pay a salary. Even so, this will not dramatically help the situation here. As we push further and further into the summer, the attitudes toward the refugees and volunteers will sour as well.
One change that has occurred is the “Samos Volunteers” break away from the municipality. While understandably the local government must look after their own people, we could not align ourselves to them anymore. This being said, we lost our free accommodation. This drastically affects the volunteers; many who would stay for months are now regulated to weeks or less. Consistency is vital, limiting the amount of time one can volunteer means that someone new must be trained on a constant cycle. This also means that we have lost numbers in volunteers, leaving those who can be here with more work and responsibilities. This July and August we will be spread thin. We need more volunteers. We do not ask for any special skills or qualifications, just people willing to make a change. Anyone who has the skills and patience to work with children, teach, distribute, sort, and of course smile will be appreciated and utilized. We need more people to stand-up and say “Here am I, send me.” We need those vessels willing to be filled and used beyond even their own expectations. This is not everyone’s calling, nor do we expect everyone to help. Every individual who volunteers is a drop in the ocean, no matter who they are, they are needed and important.
After the show a few of us went up to the camp. It is currently Ramadan, those who are followers of Islam fast all day and sleep to conserve energy. At night they break their fast, so we went to create activities as well as help some of the other organizations. Two friends I had volunteered with last time I was here, Pru and Saleh, help the organization, Friendly Humans of Samos, with an evening café.
Saleh and I spent some time with some refugees constructing benches out of pallets and scraps to provide some comfort inside of the camp. Shortly after we set up a small tent and borrowed a projector from the UNHCR. We set up a cinema right outside the café and played “Mr. Bean” until the Euro2016 match between France and Romania. I would estimate 80 people were congregated together, unified by the universal sport of football.
As warehouse manager there are some certain items that we are direly in need of: underwear, socks, shoes, school supplies, baby strollers/push-carts. There is a list on the “Samos Volunteers” Facebook page as to our needs as well. If you have the time, please take a look at the page. This shows our needs but it also shows you what we are doing here as well. While I can show you pictures of the warehouse, boxes, and volunteers sorting clothes, the behind the scene, the page sheds light onto what the volunteers here are doing in the camps, with the people.
I end this post with an excerpt from “Our Greatest Fear” by Marianne Williamson:
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure… Your playing small does not serve the world… And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, Our presence automatically liberates others.”