Monday, 5 October 2015

Day 3

We spent the day working at the refugee camp for non Syrians. It's hard to analyse it. I'll stick to telling the facts. We got picked up by Christos, the nurse that coordinates the volunteers. He was very surprised by our age. Apparently volunteers are usually older. There was a girl in the car with him already. She is a doctor from Belgium. 
We get dropped at the entrance of the camp and have to walk past a massive queue. It was easily over 100m. Bear in mind is 3pm and the sun is shinning on these people's heads. This is the queue of people to be processed and receive their papers so they can board the boats. We get introduced to a million people that are also volunteers with Doctors of the World.
We memorise no name at all. Everyone seems happy we are here. 
We are asked to work in the distribution room. Our job is to sort out the many boxes full of clothes and organise the shelves. 

We are told that more boxes will arrive today and that later in the day we will open the doors and let everyone ask for the clothes they need. We work through the afternoon. 

There's a lot of diapers, baby milk, sanitary pads and hygiene items. 
Some people show up with an English speaking person and they are looking for clothes. We help them. Then a woman shows up and she tells us she has a list of people that need clothes. They are all children. We don't understand the situation but we oblige. We get a t shirt for a 16 year old boy, then trousers for a 9 year old girl, etc... Every time we give her clothes she looks unimpressed and we don't understand why. She is talking in a language we don't understand with someone else. Eventually the man explains that these are clothes for kids that are alone. They have been separated by their parents for some reason or another. They are orphans or lost. This man and woman are the ones representing them now. They are part of an organisation that helps kids in need. They are "shopping" for clothes for these kids to keep warm on their journey from Lesvos to Athens on the boat "it's very cold on the boat" they tell us. And things start to make sense. Me and Jack pick up some nice warm jackets, some "fashionable" jumpers and trousers and make a big bag for these people to take. They seem happy. They tell us these kids may end up in Germany. They don't know. They leave. 
We keep sorting clothes. It's unbelievable the weird things we find in these boxes. Not useful at all. 

Many people knock on the door and ask for water. We don't have any and we don't know where to get it. I end up giving my bottle to a woman with a kid.

 Eventually I find that there's a water tap next door and I go and fill some bottles. When I'm there the doors open and a woman is being carried by two man. She has fainted and they are looking for the doctors. I point them in the right direction. The Belgium girl shows up and passes me a boy who must be around 10 and has a mental disability. She asks me to take care of him and tells me he is happy when someone touches his skin. We go into one of the doctor's offices and I lay him in the bed. I play with his hands and sing silly songs. He seems happy. I text Jack and ask him to bring soap bubbles. He takes over the baby sitting duties and plays with the boy for a while. We are told his parents are in the queue but it's better for him to be inside. Imagine having to wait in the queue for hours with a disabled boy in your arms. 
Someone else brings in a fainted woman. Her kids are 1 or 2 years old and are crying. Jack stays with the disabled boy and I get the bubbles to cheer these two up. It works. They stop crying. The doctors are taking care of their mum. All is good for a split second. Then their aunt has a panic attack. The nurse gives me a plastic bag and ask me to get the woman to breath through it. She is not listening. She hyperventilates. I take the kids again. The doctors take her to the room. She is not doing well. There's many people opening the door of the clinic and trying to get in. The nurse comes and tells everyone we will only work if everyone waits for their turn "ONE AT THE TIME!". The nurse tells us that we will be taken home in a few minutes. There's a riot outside because the queue is not moving and people are getting anxious. Then he changes his mind. It's too risky for us to leave. If they open the gate people will flood in. We decide to go and get balloons from the supplies room and distribute them amongst kids. This seems to lighten the mood a bit. There's a policeman screaming at a few people. It's no place for kids. But is has to be.

We see the sunset through the fence. It's beautiful. And then we remember there's a fence through us. This place was built to be a detention centre. Then the government changed their mind and made a refugee camp. It's very different, but the fences stayed. 

We get told now it's the time to leave. 
We get escorted out of the camp and as soon as the gates open for us to leave, a sworn of people try to get in. 
We apologise over and over again as they wave their papers at us and ask for help. We can't help them. The police processes papers. Not volunteers. But they don't know that. 

As we leave we see a van distributing water and food. Everyone wants some. We drive away and get dropped at home. 

During the day many things crossed my mind. I tried to analyse all of this as it happen but it's impossible. 
I don't know who the people "at home" think that the people "on the field" are. I can tell you they are just as scared, clueless and normal as you are. This is a "war" fought by people just like you and me. Not super heroes. There only so much they can do. 
I realised a very important thing though. This is not about politics. None of this. Me being here has nothing to do with my political views. I could be completely against refugees entering Europe and still be here. This is about humans like me needing medical care and basic help. There's no mention whatsoever on whether it is wrong or right to help. Everyone knows it's the only thing to do. And they do it. That's it. Maybe this is the wrong conclusion. Who knows ? As it stands, we are ready for day 2. 

No comments: