There’s a lot going on in lots of different places with refugees in Athens. One of our short term teams has been there this past week and they have seen first-hand the incredible suffering and struggles of the refugees and immigrants that now crowd Greece. It’s a hard place to be, but they are glad to be able to serve in any small way.
The Port of Piraeus
We headed to the port. That was a rough experience. There are tents in many areas with people walking, talking and resting everywhere. Children playing soccer and running around in between cars and in parking lots. One of the terminals has been made a makeshift camp for a lot of people that do not have a tent.
Blankets are spread on the floor and families, women with babies and children are waiting for the next meal and a more long term solution from the government, which is overwhelmed. Needless to say, the EU is not really providing much support for the Greek government, that was already deep in an economic crisis.
Working with the Salvation Army
Our team spent one day sorting clothes with the Salvation Army. With lots of donations coming it helps to have the bodies there to just put things in the right pile so that refugees can more easily get what they need. Women’s… men’s… child… youth… There is no lack of clothes, but there are no volunteers help with the day to day operations. The team split up and some went to their central location, a three story building with two of the floors full of bags and boxes of clothes. The clothes are not only coming from people here in Greece. There were boxes coming from Ireland, the Netherlands and Spain.
The rest of the team manned the store near Victoria Square helping to distribute clothing. It was here that one of our team members had the opportunity to hold this little refugee as his mother searched for clothing from the sorted piles. The mother’s heart in our team member connected to the mother of this little one in a few moments of shared care for the baby.
Cooking for the Sick
One camp of about 150 has been suffering from gastroenteritis and are struggling with being able to eat the food being provided. Many have not been allowed into other camps due to their illness. In addition, the government is unwilling to make special food for the sick, so one of our partners in a local Greek church, got special permission to bring some food for these sick refugees. The food issue is a little more complex also as Muslims have special dietary restrictions. One day, for example, they were not able to eat anything provided by the government as they served octopus, which is not allowed by the Qu’ran. The Government or Armed forces are not willing to cook special meals for them, but serve them the same food the troops eat.
So the team started one morning by going to a huge open market, where they got rice, bananas and chicken for the special meal. After carrying all of this back to the church, we started the cooking and later assembly lined for packaging the rations.
Distributing the food was heartbreaking. These people are surrounded by graffiti and pain. There were so many people and we hoped and prayed that we would have enough–that God would multiply the chicken and rice like he did the fish and loaves. We ended up having the exact right amount.
We’ve got lots more stories coming later! Stay tuned for further posts!