Med Supplies/Support Refugees
Beyond this, it is difficult and expensive getting critical supplies to the islands. Just this week the ferries stopped sailing as the workers were on strike (many of them have not been paid for weeks). This also created a situation for refugees by which they could not secure passage to mainland E.U. No boats in; no boats out.
There are thousands of refugees in need of warmth, food, shelter, clothing, and urgent medical care. We are asking you to help us fund medical supplies we will bring with us, in addition to funding our on-the-ground effort. This could mean one day needing to purchase dozens of cans of infant formula, or another day needing more suture kits, or another day needing blankets. With our contacts already in Greece we will be able to secure needed supplies within hours of request—with your help.
(Our travel expenses are completely our own. All funds go directly to supplies for refugees.)
We proceeded to spend the next 3 hours going through the "process" with them. We've never experienced this before, we have only been providing medical care either from our clinic or through outreach, going tent to tent or down the waiting line looking for the sick, injured, vulnerable. Now we know how frightening it is to wait in the cold rain at night to simply get a ticket with a number.
I don't want to go into too many details just yet as we need to maintain peace with the authorities to continue what we are doing. We need their help when our most vulnerable need more assistance than we could possibly provide. We are not Greek, we have no authority here, we cannot prescribe certain medicines, we do need the hospital's help at times, and there are warm rooms inside a real building that we can send only very sick babies or pregnant women to, and all of these depending on who is on duty behind the barbed wire fence.
Let me just say what I can right now.
We gave every rain poncho we could find. It was not enough so gave the jacket I was wearing, forgetting it was Ariel's. We are all missing a lot of clothes from our own bodies these days. Favorite hoodies and wool socks and hats, etc. It's just what you do when you see someone suffering.
We took them to the first gate, we had no idea where they were to go next. They were separated by Arab and not Arab. We walked each to their next gate of wait, on opposite sides of the complex. This complex is pretty visually terrifying as it used to be a prison. Now the barbed wire fence keeps people out rather than in. Long walks not knowing if we were making the right decision for them. Should we find them shelter first, or have them get their numbers first? First come, first serve, don't lose your place in line.
We waited at the gate with them. And waited. We were lied to on several occasions, I cannot get into this yet but I will say I've never felt so helpless, so at the mercy of people who don't want to help, so angry and sad. I spoke with a very articulate young Iraqi man while Evan went on the brave mission to find shelter and blankets. He was a nurse for 5 years. He told me 50 of them went on a black boat like a balloon, after a week waiting in Turkey. He told me how terrifying it was to be given control of the boat. "I'm now supposed to know how to take this boat across an ocean???" He told me about his home, about ISIS, about making the decision to leave. That they just had to make it an adventure. They all want to go to Germany. Or Austria. They have money, yet they cannot use it until they are fully registered. No food. No transport unless provided by the UNHCR to the camps. No hotel, only this disgusting camp, no matter how endlessly the volunteers clean. Only volunteers. I begin to cry and turn my head to the fence so the refugees cannot see. A man begins to speak with my friend. He leans near me to say, "He says he feels great courage because you are here, because you comfort us, because you care." I turn to the man and see tears in his eyes as well.
I took a little girl to find a bathroom. Clean port-a-potties nearby are locked...? We find prison bathrooms. They are wretched.
Men from https://www.sktwusa.org arrive, they were just driving by after their shift to see if the camp had need. They spent the entire day burying the last of the bodies of the drownings, Muslim burials. These men are saints, truly. They also set about finding warm blankets or sleeping bags. For these very normal people, like us.
They were let in the fence to receive numbers. After a time we were promised these ones would receive rooms inside for the night, or they would be processed quickly. I don't know if this is true.
I walked up not-Arab side to see the babies and children waiting outside the fence, I had been promised at least they would be out of the rain tonight. The people behind the fence were not in uniform, I don't know who they were but they were... not nice. I was alone but felt not afraid. A lot of yelling and pushing, scared people not knowing what was next. I nudged through, they parted for me. Because I look official? Because maybe I could help? I convinced the men inside to at least let the families with children in, it's all I could do, the young men are so forgotten, so abused. Getting the gate open took 20 minutes as everyone wants to push their way in. They don't understand, it's all utterly unfair.
A group of men asked me where to stay. I helped them find empty, abandoned tents with other people's belongings, hastily discarded when their numbers are called. I apologized as though it were my filthy house I was asking them to sleep in.
I have never felt afraid, these people are so kind to us. So gentle. They know we only are here to help. They know our hearts ache for them.
I hope the promises were kept. I hope they slept indoors or were processed immediately. I slept 3 hours, it's all I've been able to sleep each night. I don't know how to stop. They cannot stop, they cannot sleep. They are treated terribly, unkindly. They've already been through hell. I don't know how there are still so many smiles, so much kindness returned to us.
They have so much hope. We have to hold that hope for them, my friends.