I'm sitting in the living room of our Airbnb place in Chalkida, Greece. The air conditioning is having some effect after half an hour of intense labor. My travel companions have driven to the Athens airport to pick up a piece of late-arriving luggage. It is nice and quiet here.
Our day was long, beginning in Athens with an 8:30 meetup and pickup of our rental car and a 90-minute drive to Chalkida, very pretty. We met our host, Frank, who showed us how everything worked and then led us to what he thought was "our" refugee camp. Turned out he took us to Ritsona, the Syrian refugee camp that's gotten a lot of publicity in the American press. When the staff there told us we were in the wrong camp, we wandered around for another half hour until we found it.
The Oinofyta camp is on military property - as I found out the other Greek camps are. It houses about 700 refugees, mostly Afghani with a few Iranians. An old warehouse has been subdivided into one-family rooms, and that is supplemented by tents. The residents are provided with meals and water and toilet and shower facilities. There's a warehouse full of donations from around the world. Today we worked from 1:00 to 5:00 distributing clothes, shoes, and blankets. There are about ten volunteers this week: five from Spain, one from the UK, one from Hong Kong and the three of us. The volunteers have been there varying amounts of time; we were brought up to speed by the immersion method. We are fed lunch and dinner.
It was hot today; weather in the 90s, but we were indoors most of the time rather than in direct sun. The heat was easier to tolerate than I had expected.
The residents were mostly middle- or upper-middle class when they left Afghanistan.
The camp received a "donation " of 2,000 blankets today; in return, the NGO (DoYourPart.org) will pay to have electricity installed in its containerized office. Tomorrow, the residents will be asked to dig a ditch to lay wire to the computer center; in return, they'll have access to the online Skype application to turn in the paperwork for their asylum request. Afghanis are not considered war refugees, so they are not eligible for residence in the EU. They either need to be accepted into Greece, or sent home. Numerous residents of the camp decide to pay smugglers to get them across the borders of other southern European countries. The success rate is low, but the refugees are desperate.
I'm in learning mode, as usual. We were busy today, and I am tired but not exhausted. It surprised me that one good night's sleep last night in Athens appears to have caught me up. I don't have any sense of jet lag today.