Tag Archives: Refugee crisis

9.9.2016

September 9, 2016

The past week and a half to two weeks have been non-stop; the daily summer routine I had grown accustomed to has come to an end. We no longer have the strength in numbers of the volunteers this summer had seen. While we still continue every activity (school classes, activities for kids and adults, warehouse work, hygiene distribution, clothing distribution, etc.) we are performing with less than half the volunteers. By then end of next week we will be below 10 volunteers in comparison to the 30+ during the summer months.

Along with the end of summer is the end our tourism both here in Greece, but also in Turkey. The end of tourist season in Greece means more Greeks will head to the mainland for winter jobs; this also means there will be less work available for the refugees who have paperwork to allowing them to work. Winter for the NGO’s and volunteers means additional distribution of warmer-clothing, health concerns from a cold and wet environment, and of course an influx in new arrivals seeking asylum. Turkey’s end of tourist season marks the time when tourist revenue comes to an end. Refugees will no longer be “driving off” tourism. The refugees seeking passage “lengthen” the tourist season of Turkish coastal cities, thereby helping the Turkish economy when normally there would be little to no profits made off of tourists.

Last week we spent the majority of the week either helping the new-arrivals who had a arrived on the 3rd of September, or continuing our activities. It was just a preparation for this week; to make sure that we were on our toes, ready. Saturday, I woke up to a message on the Samos Humanitarian WhatsApp Group: “Good morning to all!! 38 New arrivals will be at the camp in about an hour from now!” I had intended to sleep in that day, since the weekend we do not do regular distribution, just distribution to new arrivals and emergencies. We arrived at the camp at 8:30 am, but it was not until after 3 pm that myself and a volunteer were able to hand out food, blankets, tents, hygiene kits, sleeping bags, and mats. 

Sunday was another hopeful day of some rest, but I was woken up to a message saying that there were 12 new arrivals. Myself and the volunteer from Saturday immediately went to the camp. The community-helpers from the camp where there as well to translate and help. Upon our arrival to the camp, we were advised by the police that another 33 new arrivals would be sent to the camp within an hour. The volunteers and community helpers waited again from 8:30 am till 4 pm to do our distribution. The other organizations both days left within the hour, handing over the responsibility of ensuring distribution of their items to Samos Volunteers. While their staff only works on emergency basis on the weekends, it is a job they get paid for. Nonetheless, volunteers are here and will be to fill the gaps.

Monday was distribution at it’s best. All 83 arrivals from the weekend had been accounted for and given the new-arrival clothing distribution package. A couple full sets of clothing, towel, shoes, sandals, etc. Since we have only received new-arrivals on the weekends, we were not expecting the news on Tuesday: 47 new arrivals. Right away the volunteer team went into action. Those who had classes and activities carried on, but those who could shifted their day to helping with basic -needs distribution, finding spots for them in the camps, and preparing the re-stock for clothing distribution while keeping in mind to add extra for the 47.

We were able to distribute to all 47 new arrivals their clothing the next day. The day after Samos Volunteers distributed shampoo and body-wash to everybody in the camp. It was great to see how well the team responded to the surge of new arrivals and that with a smaller team we were still able to accomplish each task with little difficulty. 

Last Friday the volunteers were made aware of Eid al-Adha, the second biggest holiday in Muslim culture. Last Eid we distributed bags with toys, coloring books and crayons, and bubbles contributed from the UNHCR. We also had about 4 weeks to plan and coordinate expenses and activities with the other volunteer groups and NGO’s. We had three days notice, not enough to get permission for music in the camp, not enough time to coordinate with an NGO to purchase some toys, and not much time to even coordinate an event. We did not have enough toys to give to every child in the camp, so I was disappointed, and worried the children would be as well.

Usually on Sundays, Wednesdays, and Fridays the volunteer Group ‘Friendly Humans of Samos’ coordinates a tea and coffee event at the camp in the evening. Luckily they were flexible and switched to Monday. They purchased tea, coffee, sugar, and juice. We had about 25 kilos of raisins and dates that we distributed along with fresh watermelon. There was candy for the kids, but I dared not be the volunteer holding or handing out the candy. Several of the community-helpers and refugees mentioned how good it was to see the children happy and that they themselves had an enjoyable night despite the camp. So even though we were unable to distribute toys, Eid al-Adha 2016 was a success and every child had enough sugar to keep them up all night.

I am hoping that I can find some time this weekend to update everyone on the actual situation here. If I find time I would like to update you on what is going on with the different organizations, the Greek government and local issues, etc. If I am not working directly in the camp or warehouse, I am usually in a meeting and have much to fill the readers in on what the larger picture is.

9.5.2016

September 5, 2016
It has been three months now since I returned back to Greece to volunteer. This past winter volunteering the borders will relatively still open, now the borders are closed. Those who came to the islands came for a couple days to a couple weeks, now they are here for several months; some have resided on the island for over 6 months now. The refugees who came this winter came knowing that they were only making transit on the Greek islands, while those coming now know they will be here indefinitely. There are many who came to the Greek islands right as the hotspot camps began, thinking that they still would be able to move on to the mainland; 6 months later they are still stuck in the camp, on an island, an unescapable prison.
 
My dear friend who I shall keep anonymous traveled from Central Africa by himself at 22 years old. He was one of those who came right when the hotspot camp was created, when all the borders closed. He has been waiting for his asylum paperwork to process but so far only Syrians, Pakistani’s, and Palestinians have been processed. Many refugees have left the island to the mainland without proper paperwork, for they know that they will either be stuck here indefinitely or risk getting arrested. If they get arrested they know the risk is imprisonment for 6 months and deportation. He had found a possible way to escape the island, but his family would not allow him to take the risk. He was told to wait for the legal way, I watched him as his hope fell apart this weekend. I want him to leave this island, I’ve seen the psychological effect this has had on him; I also was worried about him leaving as well if he was not going the legal means.
 
I have two other friends, both Palestinian Syrians. While they both come from Syria, neither have paperwork or documentation from Syria because as Palestinians they have no rights. Two more friends of mine have no desire to stay here in an internment camp, have no home to return here, and no nation that wants them. For them everything is a closed door and an explicit “No!” These are not isolated cases, every refugee here has a story such as these.
 
This past week has been extremely stressful. The other coordinator and myself have had to balance several other people’s responsibility due to voids in volunteerism. Every day is another day of hurdles, bureaucracy, and issues that cannot be remedied with ease. Some issues come up over and over again, we sit at meetings imploring the UNHCR to do something, yet each week nothing is done. The volunteers themselves while both being helpful can be a handful simultaneously. Either with good intentions they want to do something, but fail to understand the larger concept, or they are here for only a week or two and have to be instructed the whole time. This past week the UNHCR for the island came out with their report. There were several parts that they said they had done something or were doing something that they failed to do, or had no part of. While it is important for them to report so they can continue to receive funding, it is also depressing to have them say they have been doing things that they failed to keep their promises.
 
For those that are involved in the refugee crisis international politics and news are very important. I have beforehand mentioned President Erdogan’s threat to blackmail the EU. Either the EU grant Turkish citizens the same visa rights as EU citizens or he will allow all the refugees in Turkey to migrate into Greece. This past week, Angela Merkel of Germany lost to the right-wing who are anti-immigration. Next year will be France’s presidential elections. One candidate, Marine Le Pen, is offering French citizens the option of leaving the EU. Her slogan is “Frexit,” modeled after the disastrous win in the UK “Brexit.” The EU is slowly starting to crumble and NATO is falling apart as well.
 
While the world seems desolate and hopeless, the Samos Volunteers have been active. A few weeks ago we began swimming classes for the women in the camp. Of course only female volunteers instruct the women. Each Saturday the women in the camp and the volunteers go to a nearby beach. This beach allows the conservative women to both have time to enjoy themselves in the company of each other, without the eyes of men or without children running around. It at first started out with 8-9 women; now this weekend there were 19 women who came to the swimming class.
 
We have over half of the winter clothing sorted now. It is a massive relief to know that with a low amount of volunteers, the majority of warehouse work is finished. We hope to have a couple different groups bring some trucks of donations we need dearly in the next few weeks. We have one truck coming this week from Switzerland. This for me is amazing how networking made this happen. The lady that has been collecting clothing donations was here this past winter, her son and I worked together closely. The man bringing the truck was here for a month this late-summer and has never met her. They both volunteered here in Samos at different times, and now they are both collaborating together.
 
On Saturday we had 46 arrivals come from Turkey. We spent today distributing clothing and hygiene products to all them. Right as we finished a group of 30 refugees came into the camp. They had landed at some point this morning. We distributed sleeping bags, blankets, tents, and some dry-food. Tomorrow we will distribute clothing and hygiene products. This month has just started and we are already at 75% of last month’s arrivals, and we are working on 50% of the volunteer group we had. If you had ever entertained the possibility of volunteering, now is the time we need you most.

 

 

8.20.2016

August 20, 2016

It is the weekend here on Samos, Greece. One could easily get used to the weather that we are having now. In comparison to the heat wave that we had this past June, the weather now is comfortable enough to sit outside on the terrace mid-afternoon. Most mornings I can wake up, make my morning coffee and breakfast and enjoy the view of the island. Coming from the frozen tundra of Wisconsin, being able to view the entire city from my studio, the sea, and the mountains, one is ever mesmerized by the beauty that life holds.

My morning drive to the warehouse or wherever my volunteer duties is one of the most pleasant experiences as well. The drive on my moped from my studio to the warehouse generally takes less than ten minutes, but those ten minutes are often my inspiration to guide me through the day. The city of Vathi, Samos becomes very active at 8 am, everyone driving and walking to work, to the shops, etc. to begin their day before the afternoon hear and siesta. On my drive down from my studio into town, I acknowledge all the Greeks who are in front of their houses watering their gardens, the man working out of his old VW van, the shop owners rolling open their windows or sweeping the sidewalk in front of their shops, and the farmers selling their produce out of the back of their trucks by the church. None of us know each other, nor speak the same language, yet we recognize each other on our daily routines and both understand a smile.

My drive to the warehouse takes me past the Medecines Sans Frontiers office. Almost every humanitarian-aid worker and I have had professional dealings with and often enjoy each other’s company over a coffee. If I drive by at the right time, there are 5+ of their staff sitting outside of their main office which is at an intersection that I have to stop at until the light turns from red to green. They all greet me, and I in return. My drive then takes me past several shop owners who are driving into town, all of us beeping our horns, waving, and yelling “Yashu/Hello” as we pass by. As I start to leave the town and drive up towards the camp and warehouse there are several refugees walking down. Many know me, much better than I know them. Even if I do not individually know them, I do my best to beep my horn and wave. I fell this is important for them psychologically, to feel accepted and recognized and people. I eventually make it to the warehouse, the group going to the camp have the cars filled with clothes. We all shake hands, hug, and greet the new volunteers. Those that are volunteering in the warehouse for the day also share the same experience. Perhaps it is the small community, or else the climate differences coming from the frozen-tundra of Wisconsin, but I have never had mornings like these here.

This past week we finished sorting the rest of the donations that came from Spain and Switzerland. The winter clothing area is almost finished being set up and moving the winter stock from storage. By mid-week we will begin sorting everything, half has been sorted and is beginning to be shelved, the other half of unsorted winter clothing will take a little more of a week to sort into their proper categories. We received donations from two groups leaving the island on Friday, yesterday. Medecines Sans Frontiers dropped off two van loads of food kits, clothes, and hygiene kits. Apostole, a Greek church organization also dropped off a pallet of socks which we were in dire need of. It will be sad to see these organizations leave, but it was a relief to myself on the logistic side to see some of our needs met.

Once again I must implore for help in donations. This past Friday we ran out of men’s trousers, and even shirts we will run out of within the next two weeks unless a large donation arrives. Summer has helped us with distribution by allowing us to give shorts, sleeveless-shirts, and sandals, but winter is coming. From the Chinese shops in town we can purchase these few items, but purchasing shoes and trousers cost triple, and our budget is comprised of donations. I am scared to see what happens this fall, if nothing arrives; I am even more terrified with the possibility of a large-scale flow of refugees like last winter. This is not an isolated issue. Every warehouse on the islands and mainland are suffering from lack of men’s items. With our current women’s and children’s stock of clothing we will be able to sustain their needs for a year, but none of us are going to be able to meet the needs of the men.

8.11.2016

August 11, 2016

This past week has been very tedious and taxing. I’ve stepped back from being ever-present in the warehouse. Each day a volunteer who understands the system oversees/supervises the other volunteers off of a basic talk with me or from the task list that I post in the warehouse. The other actors/organizations on Samos all have my phone number and email, so they contact me via one of those two sources so that we can collaborate and share NFI (Non-food items). Having less of a presence in the warehouse the past week and a half have allowed me to work on projects I have not had time to focus on, but it has also afforded me the time to take on more responsibilities as well.

We are coming to the end of summer, when the majority of our volunteers must return back to university. Each week several volunteers leave, mostly short term (3 weeks or less), but several long-term volunteers have begun returning to school, work, and their lives. The long-term volunteers are relied on and often thrown into responsibilities that they had not anticipated before arriving. As they leave, the two of us that will continue volunteering are beginning to anticipate the work-load we will have to add to our plate. We will persevere, of course, and hopefully those coming in the near future will be ready and willing to step up to the plate.

For those who may have a yearning to join us in solidarity here are some of the projects from the last week the group has been working on. In the warehouse there are some that have been working on basic graphic design to help with the mapping-layout, clothing categories, and general guidelines/SOP’s. The warehouse volunteers have also been working on getting the winter clothing area organized and ready for volunteers to begin sorting. In the camp we still teach English, as well as other educational classes. There are several activities for men, women, and children to keep everyone occupied, granted, the children activities are much easier and easier to raise funding. We try our best to have community-helpers, refugees/displaced people, volunteer with us in all of our activities in the camp.

A couple of weeks ago we opened a library in the camp with books in 4-5 languages. It’s always a blessing to see those that participate in the English classes picking up books in basic and intermediate English. We were given permission to finally paint the camp this past week. The walls are ordained with paintings done by people residing in the camp and the few volunteers who consider themselves artistic. While there are still fences, concertina wire (a cross between barbed-wire and razor-wire), and an ominous police and army presence, the camp is beginning to have color and shows some display of humanity.

Last week began a new activity with the Pakistani men, cricket. I have no idea what cricket is, but those who participate are highly elated. We also have a weekly football/soccer match. This has expanded from Africans vs. Volunteers to a mixed team of people from the camp, a team of volunteers, and a team of Greeks as well. Sports are definitely a great way to lay aside cultural differences, focus on the love of the game, and to build friendships.

We had a deep conversation this week pertaining to the professionalism of volunteers, the protection of the volunteers who are displaced people, and friendships with those who we are here to help. For those that are refugees/stateless/displaced/migrants we have the responsibility of their protection. There are a few that we have accepted as both friends and volunteers, yet at the end of the night they return to their tent in the camp, and we western volunteers return to our flats or hotels. We have allowed some volunteers who have become close friends to lose their social identity to the identity of volunteers. Those in the camp often identify them as volunteers, as do many of us. From 8pm-8am we are not with them. If someone was to hurt them because of their identity to us, then we would be responsible. We decided after much talk that we shall continue the friendships we have, but do our best to separate our individual friendships to becoming associated to the group. While organizations forbid friendships with the refugees, we as volunteers are here to provide the human aspect. We cannot prevent friendships from happening, nor do we wish to prevent them. We just need to be mindful that our relationships can put people in vulnerable positions.

This past Friday there was a fire in the building below my apartment in the US. Luckily nobody was hurt, but many of my possessions and those of my roommates were ruined. This was one of those situations where I could cry and mope, or laugh since there is nothing I can do about it. I of course laughed, but also took it as a sign. I had a few days prior told my friend I share an American cell-phone contract with to cancel my line. The hardest part of the decision was giving up a phone number I have cleaved to for so long. After the fire, I realized that it was just another step of pursuing the path of life I have been involved with these past 8 months. I have come to realize that possessions have held me back for so long; possessions have tied me down and forced me to pursue dreams that were not of my own, but rather the society/environment I chose to identify myself with. I could not ask for a better misfortune, or rather a sign.

I am slowly slipping into a more administrative position while balancing logistics at the same time. This will afford me more time with my dilapidated laptop which also means the ability to update my blog more regularly. If you are interested in volunteering or desire to know more of what we are doing here in Samos, Greece feel free to look at my Facebook page – Andrew Ainarf, or the group Facebook page – Samos Volunteers. Thank you once again for taking your time to follow my posts and for your funding.

7.12.2016

July 12, 2016

              My days are beginning to blend together, it’s becoming hard to remember what I did from day-to-day. Sunday’s are the only day I can differ from the others because every business is shut and it is the volunteer’s day of rest. The past Sunday was a well needed day of rest, the wear and tear is becoming very apparent on the faces and body language of the long-term volunteers. I somehow managed to sleep until 11am on Sunday with a grand total of 12 hours of sleep. I doubt I have slept that long in the past decade. Most of the team took a drive to the south-side of the island to relax and swim in the sea. It took an hour and a half to drive across, but it allowed us to take in the beautiful mountainous landscape, the villages perched on the hillsides, the coastline, and the green forests. 

              There was a forest fire that started up near where we all work and live, and the winds spread the fire all the way down across the island. At one point the fire could not have been over 1 mile from where I stay at. For at least two days the firefighters and military fought the fire, we would watch as helicopters would fly back and forth dumping water from the port on to the blaze. I have yet to know how many houses were destroyed or casualties/loss of life. 

              As always the tensions are increasingly growing. The municipality of Samos sent a call for help for 700 local children who need their basics of life met. Athens refused them. As summer keeps on continuing with no dramatic change in tourism, the people feel their wallets growing thinner and the worries of winter survival weigh more heavily on their minds. A nearby island, Leros, has suffered a dramatic loss of support from the islands. On Saturday a group of 150+ Yazidis (the oldest known ethnic group, religious group, also referred to as “The People of Eden”) were attacked by Greek locals. The police did not intervene, and several volunteers were threatened. While the volunteers have often been threatened, it has never caused them to flee. All the humanitarian aid organizations have left, as well as the majority of the volunteers. There are only a handful of independent volunteers that remain to take care of the 8,400 refugees and to stand between the refugees and hostile Greeks. 

              The Turkey/EU deal is about to officially fall apart, thus we are planning for another surge comparible or more than last year. The EU tried their best to say they had a strong handle on the refugee crisis by not allowing them to leave Turkey. Since Turkey is not EU the EU played the card out-of sight, out-of-mind. The African’s have been protesting for two days now, leading to an evacuation of European Asylum Support Office/EASO in the camps. The precedence for asylum seekers is Syrian’s, so many of the other nationalities have been in the detention camp for up to 4 months. They are beginning to lose hope, and feel that they are nobody’s. When the Turkey/EU deal falls apart, Europe will have to acknowledge that they must find a way to accommodate the wave of humanity, not hide them outside their borders or in prison camps.

              The group of volunteers have been amazing. We have almost finished sorting all of the donations, which means that we need donations to start coming back in. The past week I have had the pleasure of having Ion Wolf working with me on projects. The team sorting has been doing so well that I have been able to focus on projects and slowly catch up. There have been several volunteers that I have worked closely that have left, it’s hard saying goodbye to people who are in sync with each other working on the same goal. The amount of work we accomplish as a group was noticeable enough for Medecines Sans Frontiers/Doctors Without Borders to help fund the group. It was a huge victory for the group to know that our toil had not gone unnoticed or appreciated.

              I would like to thank all of my donors who have helped me out. I had a week of stressing out about my funds since we have to pay for housing and transportation now. Your donations relieved a lot of worrying that was compacting on top of everything that I am doing out here. You gave me the ability to breathe again, and also remind me that I am not alone on this. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

7.3.2016

July 3, 2016
Though it has been more than three weeks since I arrived in Samos it seems more like three months already. One more week done, and my body can feel it. Every morning I wake up feeling more exhausted than before I fell asleep, but at each day’s end I can fall asleep without any hesitation. Though it has cooled down to the high 90’s, 100 in the afternoon, the sun still takes a toll on our bodies.


I was able to spend the majority of the week focusing on the warehouse. We have been collaborating with several other groups, one in particular, the Dutch Boat Refugee Foundation. I had previously worked with them in Lesvos, Greece on the shores, but now with the decline in new arrivals they have switched to medical work and educational classes in the camp. We were able to inventory the warehouse finally, which raised some alarms as to what we do not have. This helps as different groups visit the warehouse daily in search of items. Sharing a weekly inventory database will save everyone time, gas/money, and also help keep the limited resources available for emergencies.


I finally found time this week to work on a project I had been thinking about for three weeks yet never could find the time to start it. Between myself, Petros, and Ion we were able to build an electric-free air-condition. Many of the cabins at the camp are metal with no air-condition. We can neither afford to put units in their cabins nor do we have full confidence in the wiring throughout the camp. We drilled holes through a board, and cut water-bottles in half.

AndrewFrania.com

Next we inserted the mouth-part of the bottle into the pre-drilled holes and then removed the caps.

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As air moves through the open end of the bottle it both causes the molecules to slow down, thus cooling, as well as forcing the air moving through to speed up causing more of a “breeze.” This concept was developed in Bangladesh a year or two ago and has dropped temperatures inside by up to 9 degrees Fahrenheit. If the prototype works as anticipated, then we will purchase more boards and pre-drill and cut them to each window’s size.

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While we can create better quality of life for those in the camps, we can also make use of the empty bottles everywhere, and teach recycling, sustainability, and ingenuity.

AndrewFrania.com


I had a few meetings this week concerning employment with some of the international organizations. Though I am not quite ready to sell out to “the man,” I must devise a long-term plan if I am to continue in the humanitarian field. If I was to make the transition from volunteer to aid-worker I would be able to obtain a one-year work visa as well as benefits and pay. I am conflicted because this decision is mostly based on money.


I primarily spend my off-time at Pizza Di Piazza making use of their free WiFi and their generosity. Many times I do not have to pay my bill because I bring all the volunteers there and because I frequent there often and am friends with the owner and all the staff. The view on the terrace is right on the sea-road thus allowing me the view of the entire city and everyone walking by. Every time I find myself there I am greeted by all the staff, my dear friend Manolis the waiter, and the owner and his wife. The local Greeks who frequent there know me by name and make sure to tell me hello.

Sitting on the terrace allows me to see all the volunteers and refugees walking about It’s hard to go 5 minutes without seeing someone I know, this place makes me feel home and that I belong.


The owner of Pizza Di Piazza, Theopolis, and Manolis both are trying to work on paperwork that would show that I would have a place of employment with them. This will allow me to apply for a one-year work visa. I’ve contemplated returning to university, but also the three weeks here have brought many things to my attention. I am well networked with the local community, refugee community in the camp, the different organizations on the island, and my network of volunteers and organizations I have previously networked with. This fall will mean less volunteers since many are in university and must return. One of the coordinators will have to return to grad school as well. There is a need for long-term volunteers to keep relations intact as well as to ensure that existing operations continue. I believe that a year of continuing volunteering here is much more vital than finishing my studies. Though I can raise more awareness at home, there is a massive need here that is much more important. If the work-visa works then I will have to find donors to pledge monthly to allow me tuo continue for a year.


We do not distribute in the camp on Saturdays unless there are new arrivals. The past few weeks we either had new-arrivals or else an event to plan and prepare for. This Saturday all we needed to do was focus on the warehouse. There were at 15-20 volunteers at the warehouse. Every project I had been intending on working on were accomplished before lunch. There were several different projects going on, yet everyone found the niche that they felt most comfortable with. It was amazing to watch everyone from different backgrounds all working in cohesion on the same goal. We all shared lunch together which was a first to have this big a group in the warehouse or sitting down together. Many volunteers brought a prepared dish, some cooked food while we were working in the warehouse, and all contributed a euro for purchasing certain foods that we needed to complete the meal.


After lunch we continued working in the warehouse for a couple of hours. Most of us were in a food-coma as well as feeling the energy spent combined with the sun. We all met at the local football/soccer stadium that evening. We had a team of volunteers and refugee volunteers play against the refugee team. The volunteers lost 1-4 but everyone won. It was a huge success and now there’s rumors of this becoming a weekly event. This would allow for solidarity between the volunteers and refugees, allow us to find a common ground, give the refugees in the camp something to watch and enjoy, and for the volunteers it allows them to spend time with their refugee friends outside of work. We finished our night at Pizza Di Piazza, a table of French, Belgians, Brits, Syrians, Palestinians, Iraqis, Burundi’s, Sudanese, Nigerians, Somalians, Romanians, Americans, Spanish, Germans, Dutch, etc. all breaking bread together. I struggle to find more beautiful moments in life than one like last night.


I would like to thank all of you for following my blog and for those who have made donations. I have had several people tell me that they read every post and that is a huge encouragement to me. There are days that the human in me is depressed, exhausted, struggling to find strength. I always get a note of encouragement, someone telling me thank you, a post telling me that I inspire them, a donation, a hug from my mom via a volunteer I work with. Without these I would be hard pressed to continue sometimes. There are times that there are other volunteers here who start to hit a low and I often find myself quoting a message sent to me earlier in the day. Thank you all for being here for me, for your donations, for your notes of encouragement, for your solidarity with humanity.

6.26.2016

June 26, 2016

              I woke up today to another beautiful day here on Samos, Greece. We attempt to take our Sundays off, unless new arrivals show up the day before. Yesterday was one of the few days that we did not have new arrivals so today the majority of the team took the day off. We had 41 arrivals this morning. It takes half the day for the new arrivals registration, by the time that we can have access to them it’s well into the afternoon. We can only assess the critical needs because by high afternoon, the building we distribute out of is several degrees warmer than the outside temperature of 110 degrees. With the sun heating up the metal building, it becomes unbearable, almost impossible to work inside of the cabin.

              I have been absent from the warehouse for the past few days. Three days ago we had 78 new arrivals we needed to distribute to. We had set up a new system in the distribution cabin, to both streamline distribution as well as to keep track of who receives what items since we are running direly low on several items. I find distribution mentally and psychologically exhausting in comparison to any other volunteer work I have had the opportunity to be a part of. In half a day, I interact with more people than I do in a month back home. 

              After 3 days of testing our new system at the warehouse, we decided that there were a few more things that needed to be adjusted. Two volunteers, Paul and Melanie, with the aid of one of  refugee-helpers, spent the day reorganizing the cabin. Paul has a 26 year-old Soviet bike with a sidecar which happened to be the only resource we had for moving shelves from our warehouse to the distribution cabin. The look the Greeks gave us as we were driving holding on to the shelves strapped to the sidecar. I’m not sure if they were more intrigued by the bike and side-car or the contraption of straps and shelves balancing on top.

              This past Thursday the UK voted to leave the EU. The biggest reason was about immigration, both the immigration of the Eastern-European countries, but more directly because of xenophobia. This decision will have little impact on the older generations, but will affect the younger generations the most. They have already seen a drop in the British pound on Friday, the lowest it has dropped in 30 years. The American Dollar has strengthened, which seem good, but it means that exports from the US will decrease. Domestic products will become more expensive for the American consumer, while imports will become cheaper. I had to chuckle at Donald Trumps’ tweet about the Brexit vote as he landed in Scotland. “@realDonaldTrump- Just arrived in Scotland. Place is going wild over the vote. They took their country back, just like we will take America back. No games!” Apparently the man who wishes to run America failed to keep up on current events or failed some geography classes, for Scotland voted to stay in the EU. 

              While I have 3 month’s reprieve from the American politics, Clinton and Trump still lead many of the dinner conversations with refugees, volunteers, and local Greeks. The world is terrified of what will happen if he is elected, as well as concerned how America got to the point that he is one of the two best options America has to represent them. 

The backlashing has already become apparent as fellow American citizen friends have been ostracized for their ethnicity, of which they were neither Muslim or middle-eastern. By skin color they were categorized as not-belonging, though they were born and raised in America. One was a fellow military veteran who received both racial slurs as well as trash thrown at him. Even here I have felt some pressure from the rising xenophobia in the US. To be told, “I was born in this country, you weren’t, this is my country boy,” really shatters the core of a person. While I should not let words get to me, it devastates me to know that this is how many people in the states feel. This coming from someone who know me, that knew of my service to my country in the US Marine Corps, who has done nothing to contribute to our nation, felt like a stab in my back once again from my country I hail as home. 

Though the actions of a few do not represent the actions of the whole, it troubles me to think that any work my fellow volunteers and I do is of any use. If those from our own home countries do not accept those who already live there, how can we expect them to accept and allow those we are helping to integrate into our society? For several hours I spiraled into depression, shaking and confused, trying to hold back tears, and refraining from screaming to the sky about the injustices of the world. I had a moment of weakness and contemplated returning home, because I felt what we were doing was fruitless. I had so many friends, family, and fellow volunteers reach out to me at my time of need and was able to find some peace. Yet, the issue will continue to nag at me, for there are those in the country I fought for, grew up in, that will never accept me as American simply due to race and where I was born. 

I cannot end on such a negative point. Two nights ago my friends Saleh and Pru purchased some watermelons for their café in the camp. With the aid of the “Friendly Humans of Samos” we were able to distribute 500 slices of watermelon with the tea/chai and coffee, a most welcome surprise for those in the camp. It was quite the task cutting 8 watermelons up into 500 slices with nothing but a table-knife and fish filet knife, but well worth seeing the joy and happiness. Thank you all for your donations that made it possible to purchase items that are needed, fund the volunteers to continue our work, and for the opportunity to occasionally make purchases just to spread kindness and make smiles. Keep it up, for if it were not for giving souls like yourselves, none of this could happen.