Im writing this at 1:30am on 20th February, as Ive just finished a back to back day shift and night shift and now Im on Emergency Call incase any refugee boats come in over night and early morning… Its been a long 2days! So I will start with 18th Feb, I got to the refugee camp (Kara Tepe) about 6pm where I again was involved in handing out sleeping bags, clothes and shoes, the early evening had a trickle of refugees turning up at camp but come 10pm it seemed as we had just finished sorting out one coach load of refugees, another coach would turn up and it was constant throughout the night, non-stop till I handed out my last sleeping bag at 1:20am… I was on night shift with one of the senior members of Humanitarian Support Agency called David, so as I issued my last sleeping bag out we left for home and I got into bed finally at 2:30am. During my night shift I met a wonderful guy from Syria Called Safwat, he wanted to stay in touch with me on facebook so Im sure I will in my blogs let you know how he gets on through his journey to Germany, by now Im sure he would have left Athens and heading towards Macedonia. He tried so hard to teach me a bit of Arabic which I really want to learn but I used to be so bad at languages at school and was rubbish at French and German, so Im going to keep working on it, but I can now say hello good bye, thank you etc, so I will stick at it. I met him during the night shift when he came to me really worried after his visit to the ticket office on the camp where they buy their coach and ferry ticket to Athens. The ticket guy had mentioned that in Athens they take finger prints and even detain you, and as I didn’t know what the policy was I searched for someone who could give me the information to put his mind at rest.
I finally got all the info I needed and passed it on and his face was a picture of total thanks as if I move the world for him or something but all I did was hunt an official from UNHCR down and ask a couple of questions, but to him I had like moved mountains, I was able to tell him there was no detaining and once he got to Athens he could just carry on his journey. To thank me he insisted on being my interpreter for the night whilst I was giving out sleeping bags, but I insisted that he had a long journey and all I was doing was my job and that it was nothing.
19th February… I get to camp at 2pm and already it is so busy and I get sent to the food and tea area where I bump into my new Syrian friend Safwat and straight away he comes up to me thanking me again and giving me a hug, we sit down and we get chatting for over an hour, he was from Aleppo, he had two cars, two houses, two shops and was considered rather wealthy in Syria, but everything he had has been bombed by the Assad regime and the Russians, now he had nothing and had to even borrow $5000US from a family member to help him get to Germany. Hearing his story was at times hard to swallow hearing how he had everything and now having to borrow money to pay Turkish Maffia to get on a boat that could have easily sunk, his little rubber boat had over 80 people on it including 24 children. They had all paid about $2000US for this dangerous boat ride.
Now with just $3000US left he has to make it from Lesvos, to Athens and then on to Macedonia and on through Europe to Germany. Im not a supporter of open door policy of letting refugees into UK and Europe, and that we should be doing so much more in the region, but I do hope he makes it to Germany and gets settled, he really would love to just go back to Syria, he hopes for an end to Assad and for a Syria that will one day be safe to return to, he loves his country and wishes he never had to leave.
He wanted to stay in touch with me and I showed him my facebook and gave him a piece of paper with my name on it so that when he next got a wifi signal he’d add me as a friend so I hope to keep everyone up to date on his journey. We finished chatting and said our goodbyes as he headed off to the ferry bound for Athens, and I went on to serve Tea Syrian style, which is not like any tea we in the UK have had, they LOVE THEIR SUGAR!!! So in the tea earn goes 60 tea bags, a load of Cinemon and two full bags of Sugar! And for some of them it wasn’t sweet enough and had to add sugar to their cup of tea.
So for the next 7hrs Im bent over the tea earn handing out tea and suddenly find I have no back left, I was in agony, trying to stand up straight so I took a 15min break and then swapped to the giving out of food, and one of the other volunteers took over the tea. Then at 11pm when there was no food or tea left I went over to help hand out more sleeping bags till a little after midnight, and here I am now back at the house writing up my blog as, if I don’t do it now I will just get days behind and I want to write this all fresh in the mind. Now Im on emergency call so off to bed now and maybe I will sleep all night or maybe I will be called out on an emergency, so I will have to wait and see, so signing off for the night. I long day but a very rewarding day again. Safwat God Speed…