ON-THE-GROUND IN SAMOS
DAY 11 (TUESDAY)
We carried on with children’s clothes distributions in the Refugee 4 Refugees’ shop, but it was fairly quiet, so co-ordinator Anne and I took the opportunity to go up to the warehouse.
The warehouse looks full, but for some reason has lots of the same things in it... girls coats and jackets take up lots of boxes. Unisex baby clothes... boxes and boxes... Women’s jumpers (even though we gave out three each to hundreds of women just the last week), and so much ski gear for kids.
What we needed this week was new underwear for kids, clothes (especially jeans/joggers) for boys 10+, girls’ clothes 10+. For some reason teenage clothes and men’s clothes are donated the least and, although we were doing children’s week, there was little to give the older children. We gave what we could. And those who got, loved!
Negia’s team had sadly left for Athens on the 3am ferry overnight, so it was the Palestinian team we found enthusiastically making up hygiene packs in the warehouse. Omar wanted to give these out to everyone - about 300 adults - in the smaller unofficial overspill area in a tent-to-tent distribution later that afternoon. The hygiene packs had a bar of soap, toothbrush and small toothpaste, shampoo and toilet paper, tied into a plastic bag.
Omar and Imaya arrived and Imaya and I stayed at the warehouse for a while to sort new donations that had been arriving. When I got back to the shop later, I turned straight back around to drive back up to the warehouse to accept a delivery. Nine pallets arrived including 5 pallets of wet wipes! You guessed it, Omar wanted a pack added to each of the already made hygiene packs 😂. (This always happens as soon as your distro involves putting a knot in a bag... something will be forgotten and every bag needs to be untied, missing item added, re-tied!!!)
Despite our grumbles - which Omar good naturedly ignored! - it turned into a fun bit of teamwork and, with Arabic music blaring, when we finished adding wet wipe packs to 300 bags, an impromptu Arabic dance lesson somehow took over, volunteers weaving through the warehouse courtyard 🤷♀️👍.
The area for today’s distro was on the left of camp right next to the road and closer to the town. Omar had already been through this area with the tarpaulins and lots of the tents feel bigger and more homely structures than in the other overspill area we were in yesterday. However, I also find this area much darker and, even tho it was only February, the flies here were already really bad. It also seems a lot more male dominated to me - I don’t know how many women live in this bit, and I don’t think any unaccompanied minors.
With help from the community - actually we didn’t really need to do much today, they did it for themselves - we gave out the 300 or so packs to everyone. San, Andrea and I took the opportunity to stop and chat to some of the guys. One man was from the Congo and spoke good English. He showed us inside his tent home with pride, and spoke of moving on from Camp and where he might live one day. Another man showed us horrendous burn wounds on his upper body. He was desperate, he wanted someone to help him. He said no one can help him, only one doctor, no medicine, camp no good. He was upset, frustrated. I got the impression he told anyone who would listen, but still nothing. Could I do something to help him? I felt helpless... but his injuries play on my mind and I wonder how many others are suffering in silence?
The usual mix of “merci”, “shoukran”, “I didn’t get”, “come for chai”, rang out in this dark, well-built and tarpaulined, rubbish and fly-infested, masculine area of unofficial overspill camp... and we left them all, hygiene packs in hand, to get back to their Camp lives. Our job done for now.
As we were leaving I glanced left and saw a guy enthusiastically using his new toothbrush to clean his shoes!