I have watched for years now as people pick up a clipboard, put on a badge and a vest and turn humanity into a business using people seeking refugee or help as a commodity for business. I see the intolerance and impatience shown to those merely asking for help. I hear the numbers being called instead of a name, I see the queues been formed for the daily conveyor belt of something resembling food to be handed out without even looking up, the muted or very sharp conversations being held through wire fences with those seeking assistance on one side and those with the option to help, usually with hot coffee in one hand and a G4S security man beside them, on the other side. I see the woman fighting to do her best for her child. She has fled war and unimaginable atrocities so standing her ground to get what she needs is not going to deter her and certainly not by the person with the clipboard who has now donned a pair of disposable gloves and a surgical mask because the child’s hair is not shiny, or her nails are not clean or the clothes she is wearing have certainly seen better days. Or the man with his wheelchair bound mother who he has just pushed up the steep incline of Samos camp as her name had been called out over the inaudible tannoy system, just to be told by someone he is too late and come back tomorrow. So we sit with them, if possible get them what they need, play with the child, ask their name, make a cup of tea for the woman in the wheelchair and promise the man we will come back to help him the next day…because this is what I would expect someone to do for me or mine…
There are always people in need. Although many of the problems of the camp are the same and not something we can fix, there are also individuals. They are people not just numbers en masse! Different stories, hopes, dreams, nightmares, needs, problems, worry concerns. There are medical problems, psychological problems, family problems, there are bad days and good days, there is the hopes dashed, the little hope left for the next interview, the chance of a phone call from home after weeks and weeks. There is the sadness at the death of another family member back home, the joy/sadness of the birth of a new baby whom you may never get to see. There are daily concerns of not having enough to feed your children, the embarrassment of having to ask for sanitary products that may be needed on a day not allocated for them. There is the annoyance of being handed documents in a language you don’t speak and without an interpreter present to help.
We have come through yet another cold wet winter together and will now face into a hot, humid Greek summer. The camp residents are still “living “in canvas tents or in metal container boxes. The heat inside in the summer, as opposed to the freezing cold and wet of the winter, is unbearable. Some of the containers have 20 to 25 people inside; it is the kitchen (for those with a one ring stove and some food), the bedroom, the living area…. It is a tent or a metal container. There is no dressing it up as anything other than that. There is no privacy, little hygiene, no comfort and no way for people to be forced to live for a month or a year. As with previous years, we will be surrounded by hundreds of mosquitoes, the water will be off regularly in the camp, there is little to no shelter or shade from a scorching sun, except of course over the NGO and authorities area of the camp.
We now have a rise in the number of new arrivals. These numbers for sure will rise even further in the next few weeks. Our youngest in the camp at the minute is a beautiful one month old little girl. We have more children coming each week. We also have people in the camp who have now entered their second year of these living conditions… 12 months of living in limbo for daring to ask for help, 12 months of separation from loved ones, 12 months of not knowing if today you will be sent back or someone playing God decides you can live again, but will decide where…
Because the weather has improved, our café nights are now back to a more social aspect with people finding a chance to sit together and talk. During the wet nights, we literally went tent to tent or container to container to offer at least a hot drink for the terrible nights. Now we are back to juice and games for the children, and groups of adults being able to sit on stools ( there are no stools or chairs in the camp to sit on except for the ones we lay out on these nights) and speak to us, to each other and enjoy a decent cup of coffee with dignity.
But last summer was also the time when these café nights became the place for the new arrivals to integrate into the camp with a bit more dignity than is offered when they first arrive and given a blanket, a bottle of water and a number stamped on their hand and told to find a tent. Summer time is also the time when the smugglers make most their money by overcrowding not fit for purpose boats leading to many lives being lost at sea. For those of you who have been with us for a while now, even from afar, you will remember the posts we had to write regarding the funerals of the 3 little children, or the families torn apart and lost at sea, the young girl left alone as the only survivor of a shipwreck, the fathers forced to decide where to bury their wives while trying to tend to their grieving children. The nights we sat cradling young distressed children who had witnessed the deaths of loved ones at sea or the night we finally retrieved the bodies of a father and son lost at sea days earlier and so much more unbearable memories.
So we will continue, Derek and I, for a little while longer on this journey with them. Many of you have travelled with us, offered support, at times financial at other times emotional, moral, and physical, some of you since Gaza some of you since Greece. And we need you again, we don’t brandish clipboards or masks ( we do have a to wear a badge for ID in the camp) , and we have always relied on the kindness and support of you all. If you still believe in us, trust in us, we ask for your help once more but desperately and urgently. Our funds are diminishing but the need for help has not.
Can you help, Will you help once again? We have options for donations, PayPal, Go fund me or email us for bank details. We do not spend money on administration; we spend your donations totally on the needs of those you have offered to help. Our expenses are covered by ourselves and are kept to an absolute minimum. Your support too in sharing our posts, following us online or just staying in touch is also immensely important to us.
So once more, please donate /share /support to help us help those we can.
Derek and Jenny.