Meeting Refugees Coming Ashore In Greece
Part 2 of my journey to help refugees in Greece.
WAJ Intro: Mirit Hadar is our friend in Ithaca. She is Israeli, and is traveling to Greece over winter break as a volunteer with IsraAID. Mirit will post about her journey, at Legal Insurrection and her own website. This is her second post. Part 1 is here.
Volunteering was mostly about meeting people, seeing new places, and learning from the experience of others who are already here. I must say I felt a little bit misplaced myself, not sure what to do, how I can contribute here and what is my role in all of this. Some people come for few days, some people are here for months and some came to bring supplies for the refugees.
People come here to volunteer for different reasons although what unifies them when asked is that they all tell me they feel there was no question in their mind that they must help these refugees. The medical team here is amazing and go out of their way to help people in need.
There is a medical team and social worker that is highly knowledgeable as is the team director. I live in a downtown apartment with the team, interestingly all the IsraAID team members who are volunteering with me here staying in the apartment define their identity as Palestinians.
The island looks beautiful with all the Christmas lights and for a moment you might think this is a vacation resort. But then one sees the refugees on the streets and is reminded about the human story of desperation that is taking place here.
I visited the refugee camp of Moria. I met a Palestinian family coming from Yarmouk camp in Syria; Father, mother, big brother (19), a sister (7 years old) and one-year-old baby. They came to the wrong camp as they were from Syria and the camp was for only non-Arabic speaking refugees. They asked to see the doctor as the baby was sick and the mom had no diapers or baby supplies with her.
UN gave them sleeping bags but the older brother had wet shoes and a wet coat. As the evening came in I could see he was getting cold. The mom could not speak English so she asked me to ask the police officer if the family could see the doctor. I went to the gate with all the family and asked, “Can the doctor see the baby?” The guard told me only the mother and the baby can come inside the camp, the rest have to stay outside. I took them to the doctor and as we were waiting there.Susan Sarandon (the movie star) appeared and the big brother asked me to take the photo with her. It put a big smile on his face as I took the picture. Then he asked ”Mirit can you please take my other sister to her mom? Its getting cold and I would rather have her inside then here with me and Dad?” I went back to the guard and asked him for the second time “Can the brother and the father go with the little girl to her mom?” The guard replied again ”only you and the girl”.
I hold the girl’s hand as we walk to her mom in the camp. The girl held my hand tight, she was scared to say bye to her father her brother and too scared to go with me to see her mom. I gave her a candy and we walked together to the doctor. I went back again to tell the big brother and father all is well.
Then they told me the baby is sick and need medical care. The father didn’t want to separate the family so he asked me the last time to ask the guard if they can join his two daughters and his wife. I told him I can only try, I came to the guard I told him as it was Christmas, how about bringing the family together? He smiled at me and let them him. They gave me a hug and kissed me on each cheek “Ya Tel-Aviv girl, Salam Alecum Tel-Aviv girl” (Goodbye Tel-Aviv girl).The human story behind any crisis holds moments of strength and moments of frustration.
A few days ago I flew at night, arrived to Lesbos Island in the evening and landed in a beautiful town surrounded by green mountains and blue water. Everything in this charming small town tells the harsh story of the arriving refugees that are everywhere; in the water, in boats, in UN buses, on their way to the refugee camp and in lines to see the doctor, to get food, to register and go by ferry to Athens and from there to Germany.Tonight I was helping rescue team, 42 people landed on the shore near a high cliff many women and very small children they came in the cold 40˚F. One refugee was dehydrated and vomiting; we had to give her medical assistant on the shore. The medical team and myself stabilized her and she made it to the bus. There are some amazing good souls working here. It is truly incredible how people from all over the world are coming together for such amazing cause.
Some refugees needed blankets, I carried a baby whose mother was too weak to hold him and I gave her water and put a blanket on the baby.
Then I went down the cliff to help give infusion to the dehydrated lady. Her children and her husband were there with them the whole time, with my rudimentary Arabic I calm her down and she smiles at me. “El-Kul Quies” I told her, “Everything is going to be fine”. She smiles at me and kisses my hand as the fluids run into to her arm. We had to move her to higher ground to reach the UN bus. We put her on a stretcher we walked for 300 yards from the landing point. We came to a passage and we manged to lift her up and carry her all the way to the bus.
They were about 8 men and I was still holding the IV. We came to the bus the medic took the needle out and he checked her vital parameters. Then we helped her to stand up and walk she ended up just fine. Thank God. This was my Christmas Eve December 24. It’s 3am now I think I’m going to sleep it was very intense day full of emotions and challenges but there are true peace in my heart. Peace out Greece.
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