The last week I was in Samos this past winter we had begun collaborating with Medecines Sans Frontiers. It was a relief to see that the relationship has only strengthened in my absence. While they are not in the camp due to certain reasons I am not totally educated on. they support us. In the near future there may be more support from them which would be a huge aid logistically and economically. While the UNHCR tries to butt in and control situation without taking into account the smaller players, Medecines Sans Frontiers implements and integrates the already existing structures.
June 22, 2016
The days are long and the summer heat is intensifying. There has been some speculation by the weather-man that it is supposed to cool down next week, but that was the report last week as well. At the hottest point of the day the temperature pushes well over 110 degrees making it unbearable for any activity to be done. This past winter I couldn’t completely grasp the reasoning behind all the shops being shut between 2 and 6 in the afternoon; now it makes complete sense. I pity those volunteers working in the camp, surrounded by cement and black top, and for those working in the distribution cabin. There is no air condition or fans, and the metal building absorbs the heat. 30 minutes in there and my clothes are permeated, I relish the moped ride back to my warehouse just for the breeze.
It is Ramadan for the majority of the refugees here, which means fasting all day. The majority of the refugees sleep to conserve energy as well as to find some solace from the heat. Simultaneously June 20th is World Refugee Day, so the entirety of the week has been World Refugee Day. While it is great to have activities to occupy everyone in the detention camp, the brunt of the logistics and planning falls on the Samos Volunteers. For that reason, I have neglected updates, which by far is no excuse. My father taught me several useful skills as a child that have become quite useful here. Every day I am asked to build something, fix something, plumbing, etc. Incorporate those skills with the ingenuity taught by the military makes me a jack-of-all-trades, master of none.
The majority of my days keep me at the warehouse, which appeases me as an introvert. An hour working in the camp mentally drains me more than a whole day in the warehouse. But as more volunteers call upon me for random tasks, and more meetings seem to spring up I find myself using several of my hours running around town. I am using my friend’s moped while he is on holiday in Turkey. I had intended on walking everywhere to reduce my carbon-footprint, but walking everywhere consumes too much time as well as the heat dehydrating me and leaving me light-headed. When Ian returns in a few days I will have to somehow squeeze a rental into my budget.
The Turkey-EU deal has burdened the volunteers heavily. The big NGO’s like UNHCR, Samaritans Purse, Praksis, and Medecines Sans Frontiers/Doctors Without Borders have massively stepped back in their roles in the camps. My group, Samos Volunteers, are left with the brunt of the work: warehouse, distribution to new arrivals, distribution to those who have been here for weeks or months, hygiene, helping with teaching classes, distributing dry-food, kid’s activities, even now helping to place new arrivals in cabins and tents. Most of these tasks were relegated by those before mentioned big NGO’s with us handling the new-arrivals, now our group of 10-15 are spread thin between the 1300+ in the camp and the 300+ outside of the camp.
Almost every day we have seen new arrivals. This morning there were 70+ new refugees. Though the numbers are not as staggering as this time last year, the deal has only slowed down the flow. Last year the big spike of refugees did not begin until July of last year, and we are continuing to see the spike at a smaller scale. This is another reason why the big NGO’s are no longer playing vital roles, because for some time there were no new arrivals, and human resources cut back on their aid-workers on the island. I don’t believe that they have a contingency plan for this, nor have considered that the flow of refugees is increasing. We are in a bad way in the next month or two as to new volunteers, and could use as much help as possible.
While I am begging for volunteers I want to offer you the experience that will alter your life forever, in a good way. I am on a Greek island, who’s tourism thrives on those coming to see the beautiful landscape and beautiful beaches. The food is incredible and there is so much history and culture to experience. I work with the nicest people you will ever meet who are from all over, who put their careers and education on hold, and sacrificed their time and money to help others. The displaced people we are allowed to be part of their lives are just like you and I. Great way to have travel, culture, food, and best of all, great people all bundled in one incredible “vacation package.”
I have been complimented on my never ceasing smile here or told that I must be a nice person since I smile so much. Just last night Dr. Sandeep Ray landed on Chios, Greece to volunteer with ‘A Drop in the Ocean.’ I met him at UW Oshkosh where he was teaching in the Radio, TV, and Film Department. He will be moving on to Brown University this fall. Molly Fried of Oshkosh, Wisconsin will also be returning this winter; she had previously volunteered this past February with ‘A Drop in the Ocean’ as well, with me in Kos, Greece. It’s an intense feeling to know that we as individuals can inspire others by telling our story.
If anyone is interested in helping us either in donations or volunteering, please check our Facebook page ‘Samos Volunteers.’ There will be both a link for volunteers, the groups GoFundMe and PayPal, and a well as a link for a list of our need. I also have a GoFundMe link here as well and can use PayPal or Western Union. I thank you all for taking your time to follow me as well as both your support financially as well as being there for me. Because of you, I am blessed to be a have a life-changing experience and could not do it without you.