19 July 2016
I am on the plane writing this on my way home and I am “tired on my tired” but my head is full of images, sights and smells, as another trip comes to a close, my mind is full of what has happened over the last 3 weeks, and fuller still of what is planned for the future. Each trip (3 now) is busier than the last for a variety of reasons but the end goal is still the same – to give the Residents of Camp Alexandreia access to a few things to make their lives slightly more bearable and their diet more varied than it would be just relying on the army supplies. It is a very hard life here on camp with the heat into the high 30%’s - the tents are like ovens in the daytime. The arid ground allows the wind to whip up choking dust clouds out of nowhere - it settles in your throat and eyes.....
Bridge2 is working as support partner to Refugee Support in this work.
The range of volunteers that have been here through 4 months is truly international, and they have bought with them a fabulous range of skills that have knitted together to produce a blanket of help in our Camp. During this trip my son Sam James came with me, originally for 2 weeks, and then half way through his 2 weeks, he threw caution to the wind, and decided to move to Greece for a while at least, and work on Camp Alexandriea and also do some other work in other places too. He has worked his socks off and made me very proud. I know he has loved working with Kuba from the German team and they have been quite a double act making/shifting and more making of shelving in particular.
We distributed watermelons, dates, bananas, pineapples, yoghurt, chocolate and much more – the added value to their diet we can bring, is not only essential for the health benefits it brings, but a pleasure for us too.
This was the time for all tents to get a much awaited mosquito net and indeed we have taken delivery of mossie repellant, and after bite in much larger quantities meaning we can give it freely – the little babies have suffered so badly – this makes us all feel bad so it is a small comfort, we can help a little more than before to ease this real irritation.
We helped to distribute half floors for tents on behalf of UNHCR it was a long hot tough day, which had its own special tensions, as these floors were not quite what was expected.
Rando Wagner arrived like a tornado and bought with him smiles and headscarves a plenty – I had bought a suitcase full too, so we had a lovely selection – but they soon went as we have over 200 ladies and girls who wear them.
Ramadan was coming to an end and preparations were made for an EID party, and all day general party for the children. The excitement levels rose as the stage was set up during the day. Games were organised by IRC with the input of one of the residents who speaks great English. The games were a massive success and the evening of music soon got underway – there was the threat of rain all day but it held off until 11pm, which was perfect. The music, the vibe, and the dancing were all amazing and I am in no doubt it will be remembered for a long while to come. We volunteers all went home drenched from the rain and exhausted from dancing! A great time was had by all.
I had a call that there was a new baby on Giannitsa camp and the new UNHCR policy of sending the women back to camps after their births had kicked in – a little hard to take actually, as it is hard enough to live on camp as a fit healthy person but after a C section and with a new baby is for me unimaginable. Sam and I went back with a carrycot and lots of things for both mum and baby too – what a relief to put the baby in a little bed as opposed to wedged into a box. It meant she is now on my radar and we will do all we can to help her with foodstuff and things for baby Amel too.
We had registration for all the members in the camp who had not got through on Skype to the Government department for Migration. A team came from UNHCR and did a very professional 2 hours where they completed it all. People were issued with a paper bracelet telling them which day and time a bus would arrive to take them to Thessaloniki to have their paper ID issued.
I got word of a baby sleeping in a cardboard box on the streets of Thessaloniki!
Sam and I took off to go and look one Sunday afternoon after we had finished our work on camp. There were more young babies there too so we took aid and did what we could manage.
We introduced film nights in the community room the first showing for girls and women was Frozen – it was a stupendous hit! Then we followed up with Captain Hook for the men and boys – this will become a regular feature just as soon as we get a library of movies in Arabic. (The photo as the header is taken during the showing of Frozen! by Kuba Kaliszewski)
We had 2 teams from Germany delivering aid in huge trucks and early on in the trip I had managed to find an off site warehouse suitable for our needs so the aid could go directly there – a bonus as the Camp is not suitable for enormous trucks to be unloading into the smaller space we have there. It was in total 8 tons of aid for us.
I left the same time as our second team from Cologne in Germany led by Daniela Villeneuve - they worked their socks off for us in terms of work and donations - they are a hugely supportive group to camp Alexandreia, and our work, and we value their input very much. They have transformed the warehouse on site and the other little store next to the Boutique too.
We introduced a tent-to-tent distribution into Giannitsa camp – there are many problems there and we were all a little apprehensive about how it would go but it was just fine. We teamed up with Northern Lights who funded bananas, 2 litres of milk, and half a watermelon for each of the 108 tents/families there. Paul Charlie, Gabriel and I managed to complete it in 2 hours one evening. John, Sam, Daniela, Malte, Suzanne, Amber and I did another one, last night giving hygiene packs, milk, dates, shampoo, kiwi’s, and 2 little toy sharks for kids. There was a little disturbance half way through – nothing to do with us – but we resumed as soon as it was calm again and finished in 1 and a half hours this time. The plan is to do 2 distributions a week. I saw the new mum and baby looked a little less yellow than last time and she will see the Dr next week.
We distributed much craved buggies to the mums with little ones. They have been asking and asking for them so we always said when we had enough for all the under 2’s we would do it! that day came on Sunday!
A volunteer organised a music and movement afternoon for the mums and girls – we blocked out the windows so they could have privacy and let their hair down – literally - it was such fun and a massive success.
So I leave the boss John Sloan back in charge of our wonderful team once more - but I will be back in 2 weeks to give him another break. Meester John is welcomed onto camp like a celeb - they love him dearly.
I have worked with 36 volunteers in this time – they have all been so hard working and creative adding enormous value in their own way...............we NEED you – we really need people to help us make our systems function moving forward – can you self fund – can you commit to more than a week or more? you won’t regret it....
What do you get out of it? A priceless experience where you are REALLY making a direct difference in people’s lives, they have suffered the most terrible weeks, months and years in Syria. Join us and help make things just a little easier……..