Embrace the Chaos
Rumor is, that because of the extreme cold. it has been decided that the people living in tents on the islands (yes they are still arriving to the islands, on boats, and yes it is bloody cold here) should be moved to the camps here in northern Greece that have been set up with tents, some electricity, some water, some heating...
So that means that the people living in the camps now are being moved to more stable accommodation - hotels and apartments that are either empty because of the season, or because they're just empty, or because they're condemned.
Which is great news. But because of the way the bigger bureaucratic wheels turn, there are some hurdles that us people on the ground have to jump over so that we can continue to provide care for the people who are counting on us.
First, we often don't know where people are. They themselves get a call one evening and the bus arrives the next day to take them elsewhere. It is most peoples' plan/dream to end up reunited with their families in a country where they have the legal right to work, go to school, and live a normal life. And it is most peoples' final goal to be reunited with their families back in the home country that they love. In the meantime, it is their short term goal to have a life that is reasonably human: to have their children with them, to have a warm place to live, food and the means to cook it, a toilet that works, somewhere to wash yourself, a sheltered place to sleep. These simple necessities have been denied tens of thousands - hundreds of thousands, actually millions of people worldwide, and many of the people stranded in Greece now are unfortunately without some of these basic human needs. So when they get that call that they will be moved to a hotel or an apartment they are happy to leave the tent ...
Which leads us to the next downside. Actually, two. First, the hotels/apartments aren't always very nice. Today I went to an absolutely lovely apartment where three families were living. One of those families had moved from an awful "Black Hole" in a condemned building where water was literally running down the walls.
Two, the communities and friendships that have been formed over the weeks and months living in the camps are broken when people get moved to different places in different places, sometimes in different areas of Greece altogether. I've spoken to several people who had created work for themselves in the camps who found themselves isolated in their new locations.
No one really knows what is happening from day to day. I saw an official report today that quoted the number of people living in a certain camp, as of Jan 18, 2017, and I know it is a wrong number because I was in that very camp today and there are only a few families left. So, the official people don't know. The smaller NGOs don't know. The people living in the camps don't know, and us volunteers on the ground? We know even less than anyone else.
Except - what we DO know, is that when we meet a person: a woman, a child, a man, we do what we can to make a difference. We don't ever know what that difference will be, or even if there WILL be a difference, but we try our best.
I'm not usually one for the speakings of saints, but here is a quote from someone who was born just north of where I am now.
"We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop." Mother Teresa
I am a tiny drop in this huge ocean of sadness and despair. I have done prenatal visits: taken blood pressure, felt bellies, listened to baby's heart tones. I've conversed and encouraged using my hands, my heart, and google translate. I've visited some mothers with babies - mostly healthy, a couple of babies who are not doing so well, and I've tried to encourage and support. I've listened to people's stories, about family members far away, about war and bombs, about good news and bad.
What did I do this week? I drive from place to place, visiting mothers. Today I visited two pregnant mothers and then I went to the camp. Yesterday, I did groceries for the mother baby food packs and went to a meeting. The day before that, more prenatal and postpartum visits. Tomorrow, I may go to visit a newborn and her mother. Or organize a women's group in the camp. Then I might drive further north to visit some other people who have been moved to a hotel. Who knows what each day will bring.
All I know is, I am here to be whatever drop I am supposed to be, to help spread kindness in a world that is full of hatred, and to make a place where babies can come into this world with smiles on their little faces.