Overview of the first few days
28.09.2015 - 30.09.2015 22 °C
So the next day I woke up and was feeling tired. I thought what an achievement it had been that I hadn't had a single cup of tea in 2 days! Then I very quickly realised that an actual achievement would be making the journey from Syria to Greece, by walking miles, often taking two long journeys by open boat and in some instances (of reportedly) having the Turkish coastguard try to shoot at you and sink your boat with your family on board! Seriously though. There have also been stories of coast guards (not Greek coast guards) leaving migrants to drown, whilst watching and drinking coffee. This place and situation gives you perspective!
I am currently helping Doctors of the World with aid distribution at Moira Camp. The day was very intense. One of the first things I saw was a girl about 8 years old being carried to the Drs, her face had totally ballooned on one side and you couldn't see her eye. There was blood on her face too- I've no idea what happened but it was a difficult sight to see.
Photo: Donations that needed sorting!
After separating the clothes into men's/woman's/children's items yesterday, we started distributing them. The clothes are in a storage room, with another storage room next door where we give out toiletries, sanitary products, baby food etc. The language barrier was difficult at times, especially when asking parents how old their baby is so that you can provide the right food/milk. The families are grateful, especially when you are providing things for their children. It's a very humbling experience at times. Seeing children's faces light up when they are given a teddy bear is great (unfortunately we have run out of those already, but I'm on the hunt to find some more).
I ended up holding a lot of babies, mainly whilst their mothers were trying on shoes to wear. It's hard to imagine that babies as young as 4 months have been on a boat across the Mediterranean Sea only hours/one day before. There was a pregnant woman who was 4 months pregnant who was seeing the doctor as she was forced to jump from a boat a few days ago. She had had stomach pains ever since. The Doctors called an ambulance and she was taken to hospital. These people have not made these journeys out of choice in any way, and we all need to remember that. They are just like you and I, they've just been put in a horrific situation, where their lives are at risk to the point they have no choice but to flee and take themselves on a dangerous journey to try and escape. There are so many people to help that we can't help them all. At times there were crying mothers wanting to get to the front and families who we had to turn away after we had been told we had to stop (non-essential) giving, due to the crowds. Without a shadow of a doubt that was the hardest part. Saying no to people in desperate need (but knowing its for the greater good of being allowed to continue in the long run) is extremely hard and it took me a while to come round to understanding this.
On a lighter note, there are some funny moments too, when a mother is talking to me in Arabic and I am trying to explain that I don't understand and trying to act things out, her daughter of about 8 years repeated what her mother had said to me louder and slower like I would understand it then. She seemed to find it funny that I didn't understand . There were many gestures throughout the day as it was the only way to communicate- which with it came many smiles from us and the refugees, with everyone doing their best.
The thing I'm surprised about the most is that there appears to be no free food or water being distributed at the camp. There are some vans and vendors selling at the front of the camp, but some families have lost their money in the sea. I was told that in two days time they hope to be distributing this again.
The next day I heard two very sad stories before 9am, about the day before. The first was a crying mother who went to the Doctors with her baby that was four DAYS old. She was concerned that the baby was ill - she had given birth on the boat on her way over to Greece.
The second was a situation that an interpreter told me over breakfast. He had been translating for an Iraqi mother who was explaining her situation. She had been on a boat with 28 other people, including her three children. The children were in the cabin (presumably as this was seen as the safest place for them to be whilst crossing). Unfortunately the boat capsized and everyone else on the boat survived, except for all three of her children, who died because they were trapped inside the cabin. Apparently she was crying and saying that there was nothing to live for now. I cannot comprehend what she must be going through but the situation is heart breaking and again shows that these people need support.
The rest of the day was spent handing out clothing and toiletries to refugees. A mother and son arrived at the clothing area who were wet through, having just arrived on the boat and we managed to get them dry clothes to change into. There was one moment when there was so much demand that people began to push and shout, it became very chaotic. There were three of us having to hold everyone back from entering the door. We had to close temporarily, but after 30 minutes or so, when everyone was a little calmer, we were able to carry on handing out things.
Two ending thoughts:
1) We should all be far more thankful for the things and people that we have in our lives
2) I've not worked out how to correct the typos from my last blog... (But as above!)