First and foremost, I want to thank everyone who has spread the word and donated already to the GoFundMe fund. Over $2500 in less than 24 hours! Amazing. I’m so appreciative. It’s possible that the first use of funds will go to heating fuel for the space heaters in the main Tabakika hall tonight, but still waiting on confirmation whether the funds are needed.
What is not known to a lot of Americans is that most Christians in the world actually celebrate Christmas the night of the 24th rather than the 25th during the day. The big family festivities are tonight. But, as one would expect from a refugee camp full of Muslims, not much was different today than any other. Coincidentally this year, the Prophet’s birthday also falls on today, but I can’t say I noticed anything different there either.
Our work didn’t change as well. It is calm again even though I saw the current number of refugees on Chios to be almost 500. At any given moment, there was between 100 and 150 in Tabakika. If none arrive tonight, I expect Tabakika to be almost empty by mid-morning tomorrow.
The morning started by one of the dirtier jobs we have to do from time to time when the hall clears out. We picked up and rolled the borrowed mats we have for people to use on the ground, fold blankets that were left behind and pick up cardboard that was used to help (not very well) keep the cold from seeping up from the concrete. You find all sorts of stuff in these sleep materials from used condoms (bravo that they can make that work sleeping in the middle of hundreds of people!), vomit, wet clothes, lots of food crumbs, dust (probably with asbestos!), among other things.
I want to point out here that there are two small Albanian men employed by the municipality, I think, who spend their entire day trying to keep up with cleaning the massive hall. I have nothing but respect for these guys, because they come in, work their butts off all day, don’t complain, keep their heads down, do a great job and smile when you pass them. All while doing a difficult and thankless task. They definitely have my gratitude.
I like slow days, because this means you can have more in-depth interactions with the refugees. I could spend the time with a family of 6 (with 2-month old twins) helping them fill out their registration form in Latin letters as they sounded out their names. We haven’t opened the clothes boutique in a few days, because people are, in general, arriving dry, but there are cases that pop up every throughout the day and you can take your time to look for good-fitting clothing or help people get diapers, cookies or other things. You can take the time to answer questions and give proper directions. It’s just more the type of experience you and I would want to have if we were arriving under such conditions with a lack of communication. From what I’ve heard, things get more difficult and people are not treated as well as they get more into Central Europe. When things are busy, it’s harder to do this, so it’s nice to have it slow down and have more human interactions with people.
It also means when it’s slow that we prepare for the next wave. Besides a few tasks here and there, this translated to unloading 5 pallets of bottled water and continuing on what everyone is calling my personal mission to uncluster one of the containers full of unsorted clothing.
I want to wish everyone a very happy holiday season. I’m alone over here on Chios for Christmas, but I definitely do not feel lonely. Your support and words have been incredible.