July 31, 2016
This past weekend has been a whirlwind of events and a myriad of tasks were finished. It was a most appreciated change from the past week and a half. The short-term volunteers all have found their niche and where they are most needed. All of the long-term volunteers have assumed their new responsibilities; between the two groups there is now much less instruction, but rather delegation.
Thursday night a mini-bus arrived from Switzerland with donations of items we dearly needed. The donations were driven by Sigrid and Uri both of Switzerland. Sigrid has a donation warehouse back at her home, and Uri has been volunteering in the humanitarian field for quite some time. Some donations came from Sigrid, and the rest from Naline, another Swiss. She had volunteered in Samos several times, as well as her son, Alex, who worked closely with me this past winter. Almost every box was already sorted and properly labeled, so all we had to do was quick-check the contents and throw our label on it.
I think that if every group that sent donations could have a representative come for a few days it would help us dramatically. Since Naline had been here, she knew how we sorted our boxes, but also knew exactly what both needed and did not need. For once, we had a shipment without children’s clothing or women’s clothing we already had a surplus of.
Friday we emptied the mini-bus from Switzerland and had two cargo-van loads of clothing we shared with Medecines Sans Frontiers/Doctors Without Borders. The bus was used all day Friday and Saturday to move things around the island that we’ve unsuccessfully been able to move with our compact cars due to time and space logistics. We had a 40-foot shipping container in the port where the camp used to be still full of boxes and shelving. It had taken two of us a day to empty half of the boxes out of the container, with no idea how to take the shelving up to the warehouse. In one and a half trips, everything had been finished. It was a relief to know that one more of my tasks now has a check-mark next to it.
After lunch on Friday almost all of the team came up to the warehouse. The last load from Medecines Sans Frontiers had just been unloaded. This was not boxes, but rather individual bags of full clothing for all ages and genders.
With approximately 25 volunteers every bag was separated by age and gender; these were then packaged together so that they could be used as part of the emergency/contingency plan when the Turkey/EU deal falls apart.
Since this did not need every volunteer, some focused on sorting the boxes that were brought in from our shipping container, others worked on sorting shoes, working on the electric-free A/C units, and others just on their projects.
The warehouse was an ant-hill of activity and by the end of the day, everything that had arrived was already in its designated place. It was great for the team to work in such close cohesion, but also to see several tasks and accomplish them. Everyone found where they were more specialized at or comfortable with.
After we finished the warehouse we had a group meeting. This was not focused on what projects or impacts the volunteers are having on the island, but more on what the volunteers can be doing. I had stressed in the last coordinator meeting that I cannot spend the entirety of my days keeping the short-term volunteers occupied. Since donations are coming in at a much slower rate, I have been using the volunteers to re-organize the warehouse to make it easier for winter and once again, the Turkey/EU deal fall-out. The meeting stressed initiative and consistency. We explained to the volunteers that even if they are here for a shorter period of time they can see what is needed to make life better for those living in the camp. Though they may only do the ground-breaking and preparing for activities, they can pass their project/activity on to the next volunteer.
Saturday was once again another busy day. We have a large amount of short-term volunteers that come with so much energy and desire to work. We usually work for 3-4 hours on Saturday on small projects and warehouse work that requires a larger team. Sometimes the short-term volunteers do not understand why the long-term volunteers work short-days on the weekend, but we are worn out phyisichally, emotionally, and psychologically. We were able to accomplish a lot though, so it did not bother me to be working a little longer than planned. There were some tasks that I had envisioned this past winter, but neither had the man-power or time to take on.
Because of everyone’s work, we now have proper space to sort all the winter clothing as well as an area to store the boxes. We also have a large area to unload any shipments, I was so happy to see what everyone had accomplished at the end of the day.
My friend Petros, a Greek/Syrian volunteer and I dropped our friend Susie off to the port yesterday morning. She is from the UK but has lived in Switzerland for many years teaching English. She was here before I returned teaching English in the camps to the adults. For many of us, she was the mom-figure that we all leaned on. Many of us were the age of her own children, and though all of us are grown adults, we still every now and then just need a mum. 5 nights a week Susie and I had dinner together and just talked about what different things we were working on, or just sat and enjoyed each other’s company. I will dearly miss her, for she was often my voice of reason and wisdom, and always looked forward to seeing her.
Saturday night was White Night here in Samos. Every shop stays open until 6 am on Sunday. I spend most of my evenings at Pizza di Piazza with all of the volunteers and the staff that are close-friends. Since they needed help I offered my evening to them. It was great to be part of the team that has taken care of the volunteers, refugees, and me. They have taken so good care of me, often refusing to give me a bill because they know that I am on a limited budget. They cannot do much to help with the camp, so they help us volunteers.