The trip here went well. Flights were really good. We stayed in a lovely country house in Koropi, very close to the airport in Athens. The family was so kind, offering us free housing on our return because they support what we do. Their house was charming, with several greenhouses where they grow herbs. They also have sheep in their olive groves. We then had an easy flight to Mytilini where we are now staying in a really nice old mansion near the port where again, the owners are supportive of our work.
We went to the camp yesterday to see the clinic and meet up with Omar and Waheeda. Omar looks so much older than his 25 years. Things are calm at the camp and in Mytilini. The camp has grown tremendously since we were last here and as expected is still quite overwhelming – the closeness of the tents and plastic tarps of makeshift tents. There is now a second “Olive Grove” overflow on the other side of the camp as the original Olive Grove is now HUGE.
We were held up at the main gate for a while but the two security officers there remembered me, kinda sweet, and welcomed me back. While waiting for Waheeda at the gate we were watching the masses move in and out and again I am struck by the resilience of these refugees. There is laughter, there are mothers with their children in strollers, there are kids playing with each other and even the teens, one walking by with his pants low on his hip carrying a loud boom box blasting arabic pop. Kind of like a busy street in a multi-ethnic third world city.
We we given a a tour of the new clinic where we will be working. It is an urgent care unit, in an isobox. It is set up for emergencies, right outside the unaccompanied minors housing, so care of these kids also happens here. There are two shifts so we will figure out how we are going to work. This urgent care unit is new and still developing but working directly with the Greek Ministry of Health so referrals and tests are supposed to be easier . . . we will see. We were greeted warmly by the team. They said they are having a lot of knife wounds, fight injuries in the evenings and sick babies spiking high temperatures. They are not really prepared for the pediatrics and are scrambling for meds for them. This clinic will be sending chronic cases to Kitrinos Clinic and Kitrinos will send emergencies here. Not clear yet how this will work. There were lines outside both clinics.
We went over to see the dental area where Astarte and Marjean will work. Good set up. Crowded and tight quarters, but workable. Today, Friday, we will do some orientation, unpack our medical supplies and do inventory with the clinic. As a result of the unrest earlier this week, the clinic will be closed Saturday and Sunday. Not sure why this makes sense, but ok. So we start with a day off. We are ready to work. I have not gone over to the Kitrinos Clinic yet but will visit Abdulhadi today. They just reopened since the attacks on the ngos.
General impressions: As I was walking through the camp and my walk was limited to between the clinics, it is way overcrowded, tents and makeshift shelters everywhere and no space left between, over 22,000 people. I saw the food line, people lined up at 3:00 in the afternoon, waiting for food. Passed a tent set up as a barber shop and I love this resilience, the creating of the “normal” by refugees despite where they are. Passed a prayer tent, the makeshift markets, the cages where those awaiting dispositions are kept and then from somewhere in the camp came the sound of an african drum. All surreal yet too real. It started to rain and gloom descended as water rushed down the narrow walkways between tents. Keeping dry is near impossible. We left the camp, jet lag setting in and made it to the Lido Grocery Shop. We somehow ended up with five bottles of wine . . . well, I guess we will need it.
I’d just like to say that there is no obvious signs of unrest at this time. Greek locals are polite and helpful. Scott gave us a great situational awareness talk and is putting together an exit plan for the new clinic and the dental space, if needed. We are at ease but aware.
We may drive up North to Skiaymos tomorrow since we have the day off. This is where most of the boats come in. I’ve seen, on the news, the coast guard repelling the rafts. But they eventually have to land. They cannot just leave human beings out at sea in a rubber raft — can they????
I will keep posting, may not be able to do emails. Please follow us on our facebook page and on handsonglobal.org blog. Thanks.