In the small town of Polykastro about 15 minutes drive from the camp, there is a warehouse where all the clothes which have been sent from other European countries are stored. The quantities of clothing and nappies are astonishing…Some of the stuff is unsuitable – low cut slinky dresses for example – but a lot of it is usable. The worst problem is that most of it is winter clothing, and in the last couple of days the season has changed. Today it was twenty six degrees in the late morning. People need loose, thin clothes and sandals; but the boxes contain thick winter socks, wooly hats and waterproofs.
We spent an hour there this morning collecting items for the ‘distribution’ which we do every day at the camp. One of the volunteers came up with a clever system whereby we take orders on day one, writing them down and giving a copy of the order to the refugee, then collect up the stuff and hand it out on day two, with each person getting their stuff in a plastic bag with a copy of the receipt. It works really well, except that sometimes we can’t get all the things they want. Underwear, soap, deodorant, shampoo and nappies are all in demand. And combs: yesterday and today all the women asked for combs.
Now that I’ve been at the camp for a couple of days, more and more people are coming up to me with requests for help. A Kurdish woman came up to me this afternoon, pointing to her pregnant belly and saying she badly needed a buggy to push her two year old around. She has to walk quite far to the food distribution when the van arrives, and her husband can’t go for her because he’s got a bad leg. I felt bad telling her that there are no buggies in the warehouse and I didn’t think I could get her one. Another woman came up in the evening with the same request. By sheer fluke, when I was in Polykastro later on, trying to hire a car, I bumped into a Czech volunteer who said 20 buggies were unpacked today and will be available tomorrow.
Another request was from a young lad from Homs, whose also very young wife is pregnant. He might be nineteen, she seventeen or eighteen. He came up to me and asked if I would go to their tent. When we got there, wading through a large stretch of muddy concrete due to some drainage problem, they told me that they had not eaten all day. They’ve run out of money. She had collected an egg and a wrap from the daily food distribution (done by an anarchist NGO) but the wrap smelled bad and she didn’t want to risk eating it. I gave them some money, told them not to tell anyone, and to go and get a meal in the hotel canteen.
Later on, in the evening, my friend who got hit on the head by the police car yesterday came up and said could he have some more of my ‘medicine’ (Panadol Extra) for his brother. When we got to the tent it turned out that the brother was only six. He had a huge bump on his head from an accident while playing football, and was crying his eyes out while their mum breast fed the baby. You can’t give PE to a six year old so I suggested bathing it in cold water.