Putting the human back into humanitarian aid
My morning started with a simple text message from an old friend. "Morning Adriana... I'm free today and was wondering if I could do anything to help the refugees? Are you planning anything?"
A few texts later, we had a plan. Sue was making sandwiches and boiling eggs and I was filling water bottles, slicing bread and waiting for Sue to pick me up to go to Sikiaminia. As we approached the village, a bus was leaving with a placard saying UNHCR (The UN Refugee Agency) on it. I thought, finally bus relief for these people.
The first family we encounter is resting in the shade and the boy near the telephone pole speaks english. "We are from Syria, we are here one day and we want to go to Germany." Sue passes out sandwiches and I pass out water. I ask can I take a picture and they all nod yes. I can't even begin to tell you how I feel looking into their eyes. It's extremely satisfying to know we are helping and at the same time I think about the road ahead for them.
As we continue down the road a woman puts her hand up signalling us to stop or slow down. We tell her we are here to help with food and water. She says, "We have food and water." And then she turns around and puts a family on the bus.
We stop at the water fountain where an old couple is washing some clothes.
We continue to the parking area and a small boy comes up to me and asks for water. Sue is amongst the group passing out sandwiches while some other people pass out peaches. The woman who stopped us on the road says, "We need to get organized so that we don't duplicate efforts." She is connected with Melinda and wants to make sure everyone gets something to eat and drink. I say, "Don't worry, we know Melinda, too!"
Sue continues to pass out sandwiches as a small boy coyly takes what's offered and gets a pat on the head!
Above, there's Sue and the Syrian women eating peaches as the boys play a game of pass the peach. We continue down the mountain and notice a car with cases of water on the side of the road waiting for the refugees walking up the mountain.
As we approach the Kagia turn we encounter plastic boats, rubber rings, life preservers and the garbage of the thousands who have come before. I'm devastated by the waste - especially how it's impacted the island.
We continue down the mountain handing out bread and water. Our supplies run out and we pass one last big group on the side of road and tell them we have nothing left. In Skala Sikiaminia, we stop at a market and buy water.
My heart fills with optimism as we see a Danish couple doing the same thing. They tell us, "We are a wealthy country and we can afford to buy water and supplies for these people." I tell them there is a group just up the mountain and they start up the mountain to distribute their supplies to the group.
As we continue on the dirt track from Skala Sikiaminia to Eftalou, oddly enough we encounter one person with a back pack and it's a tourist walking. The entire coastline is littered with plastic boats and life preservers. What a mess!
Outside of Eftalou, we see a refugee putting a life preserver in a garbage bin and give him some water.
Towards Molyvos, we come across the above group with a blonde woman walking amongst them. We hand out the water and she asks if we can take a man who is unable to walk. Three men get in the back seat.
One man explains, "We are from Syria and have nothing left in our country - no jobs, they've killed our men, women and children."
"What was your job?," I ask.
We drop off the three men at the Molyvos School parking where there are buses, helpers and many refugees. I see a small child with trauma in his eyes running to find someone. And that was it.
My eyes well up and I get choked up. Sue says, "stay positive, at least they are in a safe place." "I know," but then I think of what the road is ahead of them.
We go back to Sue's house and she tells me she spent 80 euros on supplies. When I look down on her kitchen counter, I see this note to her husband.
So today was about putting the human back into humanitarian. Please if you would like to donate money, food, supplies and a day we need help!