Today was a busy day, but not in the “normal” sense of Chios busy. Lots going on, but just none of it directly involving refugees, as last night and today went by again without any new arrivals. This was due to the capsized boat disaster of two days ago and some fairly horrible weather.
I wanted to bring your attention to some news that came out today about Turkish police finding a factory that produced fake life preservers made by Syrian children laborers. Does it get any worse than this? Fake life preservers is one of the reasons why there have been so many deaths crossing the strait from Turkey to Greece since the start of the refugee crisis. Over 3,000 deaths (that have been reported) each of the past two years and now up to 36 (up 1 from yesterday) already the first week this year. As the article states, the black market in Turkey has exploded as a result of the refugees.
I was able to finally shoot the “Tabakika Registration Centre Tour” video, so you can find that right below here. A few notes on this. First, the Frontex police were around, so I was a bit wary about filming them or anywhere near them, so certain areas I brush over quickly. Second, I apologize if the camera is bouncing around and I hope no one gets sick watching. Thirdly, the place doesn’t seem so bad in the daylight when there are no refugees around (or maybe it does and I have just gotten used to it), but it’s a supremely dreary place at night when packed with the horrible lighting, dust (they just swept it clean as you can see them doing in the video) and cold weather. Just imagine how it was before the space heaters were there, which were new as of a week or so ago.
Part of the day was spent working on continuing to purchase items with the GoFundMe campaign funds. I’m thrilled to say that the campaign far exceeded my expectations and we were able to raise $16,280 in less than 15 days. Amazing! I had to raise the goal twice to accommodate your generosity. Thank you so much again! Today I placed an order for baby bottles, checked out the local shoe stock and made some odds and ends purchases that I will update the GoFundMe page with at a later date. I have spent 1,775 Euro (USD$1,927), have 6,200 Euro (USD$6,730) in expenses the pipeline and will dispense the rest next week.
Some NRC staff and I also made our raid of the UNHCR containers at the airport. Two full-size van loads. This was mostly shoes, jackets, men’s pants and then whatever else I could find that we were low on (that wasn’t nailed down). Part of the day was then spent stocking up the boutique and two of the backup containers. We are now well-prepared for the next few waves of refugees, but already need to start thinking about where we are getting our next re-stock from.
The day ended with something entirely new in that a friend of mine who lives in Athens was hosting, as part of her job, a group of students from a university in the US on a service/leadership trip. In typical “millennial” fashion, their parents didn’t want them coming to Chios or Lesvos to volunteer, because they thought it was too dangerous (Note: One of the most kickass volunteers here is the same age and here on her own). It doesn’t matter that these kids are juniors and seniors in university; therefore 20-22 years old and adults who can make their own decisions. What is ironic is that it’s probably safer here than in Athens.
Anyway, my friend asked me to do a Skype chat with them about what I was doing on Chios and to answer any questions they might have. It was honestly a little disheartening. My friend ended up asking 80% of the questions and it was difficult to get much reaction out of them. Maybe I would feel the same way if my parents forced me to stay far away from coming face-to-face with refugees and they had to talk to me instead! In any case, great for them to come all the way to Greece for a few weeks to learn about service. If you can believe this, I’m a huge proponent of getting students out of the US to have experiences abroad. It definitely changed my life and I’m hoping that some nugget of something I said will have them wanting to volunteer either in their own communities or back on a plane this coming summer to volunteer here.
Tomorrow, I will be blogging from a different location, but more on that mañana…