Friday, 9 October 2015

Thoughts on the dark side of charity work

Someone asked me the other day "what's your job in the real world?" And I froze for one  minute before answering. This is the real world! Being home is the fantasy version of this. Where you ignore what's going on and you live your life carefree. 

I want to explain a bit better what goes on in here and what the the refugee's journey is like. I don't know all there is to know about it and I will probably write some stuff wrong. But this is what I understand:

- people think the most dangerous part of the sea crossing is when the boat is in the middle of the sea.  It's not. It's when the boat is very close to land and everyone starts getting anxious to go out. People stand up and the boat turns over. Kids drown. One 2 year old child died today when this happen. It's no joke. This is happening. People are dying in the shores of Greece. Mostly children because they can't swim when the boat turns. 

- when the the refugees get helped out of the boat they are (sometimes) welcomed by organisations that give them blankets and other things they may need. What you don't see on the news is that there's too many people trying to help. It gets intense sometimes because everyone wants to help as they get territorial over this. There's also some organisation that only go there for the pictures so they can post them online and get more money given to them. This is the dark side of charity work. The prime minister was here this week and on that day there were many organisations on the field helping. There were charities playing with children. The Red Cross was on the field. The following day, everyone was gone. Except for the "real volunteers". What you don't know is that people that are with the Red Cross and the UN are paid a lot of money to be here. Me and Jack are paying for everything out of our pocket. And so are many other volunteers that came by themselves or with no "real organisation". There's a lot of people here helping that are just a group of friends that got together and wanted to help and they flew here. They pay for everything themselves. I'm not saying that it's bad to help if you're being paid for it. I want that too. It's just... I don't know what I'm saying. It's just weird. People donate money and they expect that money to be used wisely. But the money is being spent in weird ways. Like nights in the most expensive hotel in the island for the volunteers. My conscience is clean. I am living on a budget here and I prefer to volunteer with an organisation that I know is spending their money wisely paying for medical equipment. I did my research. I know who I'm working for and I trust the Doctors of the World Greece. I know the work we are doing is good. Damn the rest. But is is indeed the dark side of charity work: it's all about money. 

- anyway , when refugees get to the camp they have to queue to get the registration papers. There's different queues: if you're Syrian you go to one part of the camp and queue there. If you're from another country you go to the place where we usually work an that some people call "hell". I'll tell you why people call it hell. Because it is hell. I only realised how bad it was when I visited the Syrian part. It's so nice in there. There's chairs for the people to wait. There's trees, no barbed wire. There's children playing. People getting food and water. The police doesn't scream at you. And when you go to the other part, where afghan people wait for the papers, it's madness. People sit in the mud while they wait. The police kicks them, spits at them and beats them up if they stand up or they leave the queue. There's police dressed in heavy gear ready to attack. There's two police trucks parked next to the line. They laugh at the people. I do have to say some police are ok. They tell me "help this lady because the baby doesn't have shoes". But this is the minority. This is rare. I'm very worried that in my mind police violence it's going to be a normal sight and I'm not going to act upon it. We met a journalist today who is trying to help us to find accommodation. We told him about this. He advised us to try and film it and report it. Police needs to get in trouble. He has done it before. My head is rushing at a million miles an hour. I don't know what to do or think. But let's keep going. 

- the paper the refugees get is valid for 6 months if you're from Syria and 1 month if you're from anywhere else. It says you can stay in greece for that time before you have to ask for Asylum in the country of your choice. As soon as refugees get this paper they walk or get a taxi to the port. They want to get the boat to Athens. They pay 60 euros per person for the ticket. The taxi drivers are smelling money and they wait outside the refugee camp and charge a stupid amount of money per person for the trips to the port. It's 10km from the camp to the port and some people have been charged 20 euros per person for this trip!!!! Sometimes the locals see this and they report the drivers ! But nothing happens to them. There's other "refugee businesses" operating. There's people selling free phone SIM cards for 1euro. They sell hundreds a day!! Imagine that. Around 250 euros a day earned from the refugees.

This is such a messy and complicated subject. I can't get my head around it. I don't even know what to think. I write all this in hopes it will make sense when I read it back. Maybe it will.  

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