On the very same day, after the arrival of the boat, I mentioned before, I went to “Attica” – which is one of the warehouses , where all donations, clothes, shoes, strollers, tents etc. are kept.
I crammed my car with as many things as possible and then went to the port to distribute the necessary goods.
Every day, several volunteers meet up at 4pm to hand out food, drink ,clothes, diapers, strollers, backpacks, shoes etc. at the port food – medical assistance is also offered.
The ferry leaves for Athens at 8pm; in the meantime, the refugees have time to get the things they still need.
The atmosphere at the harbor is very good, you can tell, how happy people are to be able to start their journey at last. Unfortunately, many do not know or do not want to acknowledge, that the Macedonian border is closed, and that the circumstances in Athens and in Eidomeni, at the border, are not very postitive.
They were informed about this situation, yet can’t be made to stay on Lesbos.
The people I meet are very friendly; a young lady insists that I take one of her biscuits, even though she herself has only just received them from a volunteer. She urges me to snap a photo of her, looking fashionable, or so to speak “cool” with her new hat and gloves.
I see a lot of children at the harbor, most of whom have a backpack far too big for them; many are even holding on to two pieces of luggage and with huge backpacks are larger than the kids themself.
As I am walking through the crowd, asking various people what they need, I become aware of one family; I see a mother with two small children and her husband. The young mother looks very exhausted, I try to smile at her, but nothing comes back – her expression and her eyes are empty. I ask her what she needs, but her English skills are limited; finally we make due with “hands and feet”. The young woman simply needs sanitary pads.
After some time I realize that some of the children who are looking for clothes and shoes, are not refugees, but Gypsies. They have started to cram their bags with food and new clothes, whereas refugees only get one piece of any garment or food. I then keep an eye on them and ask them to put back the surplus of what they have taken.
After all the people have taken the necessary items, they now queue up to enter the ferry.
Several volunteers can be seen going through the ranks to hand out snacks and tea. I seize this opportunity to entertain and cheer the kids a bit. When I show them how to make soap bubbles, I can conjure up a smile on the face of one child or another. A little girl, who is there with her brother, however, I regretfully could not cheer up.
These poor children have been deprived of the opportunity to be children; they must live under such terrible circumstances in their young years, are exposed to dangers, malnourished, exhausted, tired, and so on. I have seen more children crying in these few days spent on this island, than ever before. Often I have to think back to my childhood and I realize how well off I am in comparison.
I suddenly wonder: Do these children actually understand what’s going on, where they are?What must their parents have told them? That they are going on a longer trip / an adventure holiday? That all of it was just a nightmare?
I see several people who have so much baggage that they do not manage to carry it all. Since I can not idly watch this, I start to help several families in bringing their bags safely onto the boat. They are all very grateful; a young mother even gifts me with her last bit of perfume and her lipstick, embracing me several times. At first, I do not want to accept, but she insists by all means.
The warmth and gratitude of the people are the essential nutrients of each volunteer. It’s not easy to be a volunteer because you are constantly exposed to new situations and you have no time to process your experiences. Moments like this help to keep going and gather new strength, when one is having a bad day.
That same evening, after everyone was safely accommodated in the ferry and had gone away, I returned to the beach to help there.
I spent the whole night in the car, but because of the violent storm, fortunately no one had dared to make the trip from Turkey to Greece.
Translation from German: Serena Nebo