July 6, 2016
I will try to do better at updating my blog more often than one time a week. I often blame my long-hours and exhaustion on my failure to send more than a weekly update. That cannot do because raising awareness is one of the most vital parts of the refugee crisis, as well as letting donors know what I am doing and that their donations are proprieted properly.
Since 4th of July has just occurred I think it is proper to explain why I consider volunteering in the refugee crisis a continuation of my mission in the military. The last few years the US was active in Iraq the focus was on counter-terrorism. I was fortunate enough for my leadership to enforce the Commandant of the Marine Corps suggested reading list. One book in particular “How to Eat Soup with a Knife” by John A. Nagl stuck out, and still does today. This book described lessons learned from the French in Cambodia during the colonizing time-period as well as Mao Tse-Tung during the Communist movement. The purpose of the book was to teach military leaders to counduct counter-terrorism actions with the participation with the nationals in that country.
While the majority of the book was focused more on tactics, there was a fair amount that explained how to work with the people and show them that we are not the enemy. By concentrating efforts into “winning the hearts and minds” it mitigates more nationals collaborating with the enemy. By helping the locals/nationals, re-building infrastructures, accessing needs and filling them, and smiling we can offer the locals more than the one option of working with the enemy.
My last mission was LF CARAT, Landing Force Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training, where as a joint-military and joint-national force we went to several countries in South East Asia that were predominantly Muslim. Per example, there are more Muslims in Indonesia than there are in Saudia Arabia. This mission was to show the countries that the US is not at war against Islam, that we want to work with them and their fights against radicalism, and to create allies. This helped further my view on Islam as well as taught me that we can either make friends or create enemies.
The mission in Iraq was “Winning Hearts and Minds.” The military had begun to rebuild the infrastructure, build mosques and schools, help feed the villages, etc. in Iraq. The government gave up on our mission and the military was pulled out of Iraq before we could finish cleaning up our mess. This allowed ISIS to take advantage of the void in infrastructure. There are many refugees I have talked with about their migration and plans. Many told me the same plan. “I will go to Sweden and if they will not accept me as a human, I will go to Norway. If they do not accept me as a human than I will go to Germany. If they too do not accept me, then I have no option than to return to my home country. I will have no option but to bow to ISIS law and join them since the rest of the world will give me no other option to feed, house, and take care of my family.”
If we continue with the xenophobia than all we do is feed the fire of what we fear the most.
By changing uniforms from coyote-tan digital to reflective vests I can still continue my mission of winning hearts and minds. The thousands of volunteers out here all work together to show the refugees that we accept them with
Today was the end of Ramadan, also known as Eid. For those who celebrate Eid, it is comparable to celebrating Christmas. In general, everyone puts on new clothes and the children are given gifts from their parents. Though we could not afford new clothing, everyone in the camp over the past few weeks all received gently-used donated clothes. We had received some prepared bags with coloring books, knick-knacks, and stuffed animals from the organization “High Wycomb” from the UK. We had roughly 150 donated to the “Samos Volunteers” and “Friendly Humans of Samos,” and then prepared another 200 bags.
UNHCR donated bubbles to add to each bag, Frontex dropped off several large boxes of stuffed animals, and the German rescue team also donated several boxes of teddy bears. The morning of, every parent came and picked up their bag(s) and were able to personally give their child(ren) a gift. We felt it pertinent that we empower the parents as providers on this special occasion.
The past week and a half was a furry of planning and preparing for the Eid celebration. Pru and Saleh, from “Calais Action,” invested so much of their time preparing baklava and sweets. They were vital in the planning the event and involving the organizations and volunteers together.
We spent the evening in the camp telling everyone “Eid Mubarak,” handing out watermelon and dates, distributing the sweets and coffee, making balloon animals, and participating in the celebration. It was a great success and definitely worth the time and effort put into it.
This week I had Ion Wolf helping me with different projects in the warehouse. With his help we were able to get the warehouse into ship-shape. This winter the warehouse was past capacity and was hard to re-organize it. Between the amount that has been distributed since then and the lower amount of donations there is much more space and the capability to move things to be better utilized. All together the team volunteering in the camp and warehouse allows me the time to focus on projects instead of focusing on sorting for immediate distribution. I’m blessed to be surrounded by these volunteers.