We are in Athens. We are in Plaka, the old city beneath the Acropolis. It is beautiful and friendly. We walked up to the Acropolis on ancient walkways. The pillars, majestic, and I love the statues in the front of this amazing temple of Athena. We are tourists for a day. Ate in a fancy eatery and listened to live Greek music.
We connected with doc mobile coordinartors and tomorrow we are doing a squatter clinic in an abandoned school. Then doing a homeless outreach, not sure where.
Today we went to a squat school, one of 21 in Athens. This was an abandoned school that now houses between 250-300 homeless refugee families. It’s illegal, but everyone including the goverment know about them and let it be. It keeps people off the streets. In one old class room there were 3 families. They divided the space with blankets, had a blanket on the floor as a rug and a bed. Big school windows let the sunshine in and there was shared space in the room where there was a hot plate and some cooking utensils.
We were there to work in the clinic that they hold 3x a week. It was a classroom , well stocked with donated medical supplies. We worked with Dr Peter from Germany, he comes every few months to donate 2 weeks.
These squats are in old schools, hotels apt and the one we were in was apparently a nice one and for families only. This is better than the streets and better than the camps and maybe a step towards starting a new life. I am not sure if people get out of this? Or how. There are so many refugees and more arriving as their countries continue to be decimated by wars and so few countries stepping up to grant asylum.
Anas, an amazing 28 year old Syrian refugee, was running this program. He works 7 days a week serving the refugees and homeless while awaiting papers to leave Greece. In Syria he worked with the White Helmets, a rescue group. He was with the medical arm of the organization and received 6 months training in emergency medical aide and more training working with his mother, a heart surgeon. He has 2 degrees, one in Mechanical Engineering and one in Literature. Amazing intelligent and compassionate man. He spoke briefly about the work, gushing wounds from bombs and bullets. He hopes to go to Ireland to start a new life. He has been in Athens over 7 months waiting and it could be years or never to be accepted for asylum in the EU.
We saw some patients at the squat then moved on to a homeless project. This is run by the community of Athens volunteers and funds from the local government. Twice a week there is a food program, a hot meal and drinks are cooked and provided to approximately 300 homeless. A van with portable washing machines is there so they can do laundry, there is a medical clinic, an hiv/hep education table and a social worker there to help. This is held on the street with cooking done outside and a very small office housing the medical clinic. It maybe was once a small ticket office. There are stone seats outside.
Internet in available and there is music playing and a festive atmosphere. We worked the clinic and saw some sad situations. A Greek woman who had a mastectomy and now has cancer in her ovaries, with complications and progression of her disease, nothing could be done except to refer her to a hospital. A Farsi woman with 3 children all with profound mental disabilities and one in a wheelchair, 2 Pakistanis living on the street with scabies. We had the scabies shampoo and body wash treatment but where could they shower 2x in 12 hours and wash all their clothes? Life on the street is hard, anywhere. A jovial elder Greek man who spoke English was telling us jokes. He had been a seaman and had travelled the world. Now homeless, we don’t know his story. We were impressed by the commitment of the Greek people to work with all these refugees and homeless. I was told the homeless population is 55% Greek.
Anas, the young Syrian, goes every night to give aide at different squats and homeless programs and sometimes just treats on the street.
He is an inspiration.
Tomorrow we head to another clinic for refugees in a suburb of Athens.