Arrival in Greece 2.0
Wow. I don’t even know where to start, but to give you context on the Refugee situation here on Lesvos, you can read my previous blog posts from a couple months ago.
If you are looking for us, here is where we currently are:
First camp visit
As we pulled up to the camp I recognized the smell right away. I thought “oh Ok now... I’m definitely back”. It’s hard to describe but it’s a constant mix of sewage, clay?, cigarettes and a melting pot of perfumes. You get used to it pretty quick. #manysmellsofmoria
After a couple hours of orientation I was not sure what to expect in camp. Surprisingly, some parts were much cleaner than in April. The biggest change I saw was that these GIANT HALL/TENT STRUCTURES had been renovated. Apparently a team from some country in Europe recognized the need during a visit and made it happen. - so amazing, those tents were definitely fire hazards.
On our camp tour we saw a bus full of people leave for Athens. I saw a man aggressively wave at me so I waved back and in French he yelled: YOU ARE BACK? GOODBYE MY FRIEND!
It took me a while to process that very short moment. THAT WAS IN FACT MY FRIEND! In the spring there was a large population of Congolese people arrive on the Lesvos shore, I spent most of my time with them. Here I was months later getting to say goodbye as they finally received legal documents allowing them to leave the camp!
It’s hard to use words to describe Moria, google has its fair share of images (most outdated) but picture a lot of outdoor blanket forts & school portables turned into what will be their homes for an undetermined amount of time.
What does the team think?
I loved hearing the highs, lows, and first thoughts on Moria. You only ever experience your first impression of the camp once.
“Tension. You can feel it in Mytilini - the writing's on the walls. But while hate may win some battles, hope has already won the war.”
“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”
John 1:5 @ Mytilene, Lesvos, Greece
-Andrea Kingston (professional tool guard lol)
“You will feel overwhelmed, people will stare at you when you first walk into camp. With roughly 8,000 refugees in a space originally made for 3,000 with over 40 countries representanted & through language barriers”
-Amity Petralba (Housing & drill using Queen)
What are we doing?
The boys are alternating to cover night shifts: midnight to 8am ! We have done daytime 8-5 and an evening shift as well.
The tasks vary throughout the day:
Census - Essentially checking ID & Counting
Diapers - handing out the baby essentials
Photocopy - this is something I forget is a luxury back home
Tools - You go with the Person of Concern who needs the tool and you wait until they are done using it to ensure our limited tools make their way back to the office.
Housing - once families get notice that they will be leaving for Athens, spaces open up for new arrivals to move in. You sometimes have the opportunity to go through the entire process with a family. (I’ll talk about that later)
New Arrivals - organizing & handing out food or clothing to those who have just arrived (Charise did 2 shifts in there and there was so much efficiency!)
New Arrivals gate (evening) - my fav / least fav spot to be in. You let those who are new in, those who don’t live there - OUT !
A few moments of what we specifically did or saw:
Every task and problem is often SO SIMPLE, but the same problem at home vs. in Moria is a whole other ballgame.
My family, friends, work place are very organized. There are standards of excellence for everything you do and the right materials to help you create a solution.
Ressources, supplies, tools, people, time, safety and help is VERY limited in the camp.
Our task: there is one big tent that needs to be switched to a smaller tent because it is blocking half of the path trucks go through.
My mind: Ok. Inform the families, help them move out, unassemble tent, assemble new tent, help them move in.
Estimated time of completion: 2 hours max.
Actual Duration until completion: took almost the ENTIRE DAY HAHA
Language barriers suck. Trying to explain the dangers of their large tent being there was a challenge, then came the realization that the space would now be smaller, then came the back and forth shouting between a few of the husbands about how “this is big problem” (that’s the extent of what I understood in Farsi). Either way that tent had to come down.
Tent Parts, screws and nails need to be salvaged for future use. I had never used a power tool in my entire life but I was more than happy to start then and there.
(Being a carpenter is secretly a dream of mine)
A few of us did some intense team bonding when it came to take down, clean up, removing garbage soaked in sewage, taking apart screwed in pallets and putting up the tent.
It’s so funny. It doesn’t matter what big project you are working on, the people LOVE to stand and watch. I get it- it’s honestly really boring to wait around and do nothing in camp. So watching me struggle to use a drill was entertainment until 2 men offered to help.
Turns out one was a kitchen cabinet builder! He showed us pictures and they were beautiful! Dillon helped him put a tarp over his little space so his baby would be less cold and in exchange he said: ME HELP BUILDING.
What a blessing.
This is so typical Moria- one minute you’re being yelled at or told we are all bad the next the same person is hugging you and says you’re beautiful and you are their friend.
A women showed me how Google translate has a feature where you can speak into your phone and thanks to technology we realized we were both on the same page this ENTIRE time. She now hugs or waves when she sees us walking around.
On an evening shift...
It’s a little less physically demanding but you are making sure those who are vulnerable remain safe to the best of your abilities.
Some of our team got to sit at Section Gates and those are the best moments to get to know those who live there. The women love to sit and chat, draw, lean on you and it was cool to see the relationships being formed between our team and them. They tell some traumatic survival stories in the most casual ways. These women are though.
Myself, Amity and Dillon guarded the gate and to be honest, our new friend helped us do most of the hard work. (Can you tell? Everyone is “my friend” haha)
They know who lives there and who doesn’t, who will cause trouble and who will honestly only go in for just a minute to look for someone.
I realized I had been practicing the wrong language while at home.
Most new arrivals are coming from Afghanistan where they speak Farsi. I honestly think there are over 100 underaged boys waiting to be housed into the vulnerable unaccompanied minors section. In the meantime, they are all becoming “bros”, I see them taking care of older women, helping babies, looking after their sisters and despite the circumstances they are always making us laugh and offering us food or tea.
There is a spot in my heart for all those little trouble makers.
In the middle of the shift one of the boys said “Hey. Close door now because one guy drinking to fight”
So we held the gate closed and I only got pushed once.
As soon as they saw that he had possibly hurt me on his way in, 4 or 5 of them starting yelling and shoved him outside and said “go call police”.
Told you, they do all the work.
A few little fights and one larger one occurred that evening and I was grateful to our friend who warned us and explained what happened. The next morning I saw one of our new arrival guys had his nose & fist all bandaged up.
I gave him a motherly disappointed glare and shook my head.
He said “so sorry, I protect my friend, but no more fighting Ok?” - we exchanged a high fived and we both laughed.
My oh my, that’s just another regular day in Moria
We have 2 days off to go to church & work in the community centre. A few people have told me it’s not fully normal to enjoy and want to work in camp - yet they feel that way & that was enough confirmation that God wanted them there, which is why they stay. So far I feel the same as I did on the last trip here - I’m surprisingly very comfortable , sad the days go by quickly and excited to return.
One reason I feel so excited to have the opportunity to work in this heartbreaking military base is because so many people contributed to me being able to afford this trip only a few months after raising the first trip amount. I feel encouraged to do every task I’m assigned as if I was serving Jesus himself. I am grateful for my community at home.
Thank you for being part of this experience if it was financially, through kind words or through prayer - That’s so unreal.
- lots of love,