Last summer the Oinofyta camp was open, a community for about 400 refugees, most of them from Afghanistan with a few from Pakistan and Iran. The camp had a school, a computer lab, an exercise room, a women's space, a kitchen, even a soccer field. Do Your Part distributed food and sundries and multiple volunteer agencies provided other kinds of support.
The camp was closed by the government in November. The volunteer agencies were given four days to vacate. The residents were bused to apartments in Athens or to other camps.
In March, Oinofyta reopened. This time it was to house vulnerable refugees from the Greek islands. Now, four months later, the residents are mostly Kurds who have fled from the Syrian city of Afrin. There are few services at the camp now, and the volunteer organizations who worked so hard in 2016 and 2017 have not returned.
Do Your Part runs a community center about five miles away in the village of Dilesi. There is a tailor shop there that makes unique bags to sell, and a space for women to come for respite, and for kids to get a little education. Every Tuesday MobileDoc volunteers spend the day providing medical care for refugees. Every other week legal volunteers come to assist with asylum applications. A Do Your Part vehicle transports the people from the camp at Oinofyta to the community center at Dilesi. Last week the Hellenic Midwives Association came for the day to provide prenatal care. The volunteers are working outside the camp now, doing what can be done for the Kurds who were forced out of Afrin.
The volunteer network in Greece is active. Because I'm traveling soon to Athens - with an extra suitcase, as usual - I was asked to help find some catheters for a little girl. Here's my Facebook post:
In a refugee camp southeast of Athens there is a 9-year-old severely disabled Kurdish girl who needs five catheters per day for urine, to prevent fluid building up in her brain. A five-day supply costs 60 euros (About 70 dollars) and the kind she needs is particularly hard to come by. [The little girl has scoliosis, hydrocephaly and is a paraplegic.]
I am going back to Greece on August 21. I have been asked to find out if anyone would be willing to donate some size CH-8, pre-lubricated catheters for this little girl. I will take them with me.
This is what the catheter looks like.
Please message me if you can help.
I found a supplier in Canada who would sell me a box for $25 American, and then contacted Leslie, another volunteer, who lives in Boston, She has been coordinating the catheter project. Leslie has a friend who travels often between Athens and Istanbul, and the catheters are much, much cheaper there. So the $650 may go from me to Leslie's friend via Paypal, and Berit, the little girl, will have the catheters she needs for the next several months.
One of my friends, Lillian, contacted a doctor she knows. The doctor, Jean, wanted to talk to me. She has medical supplies and a contact in Seattle for more. I asked Lisa Campbell, Do Your Part's Executive Director and the project manager in Greece, what items would be on a wish list for the medical people currently volunteering at the community center. Lisa said:
- Durable equipment: blood pressure cuffs, stethoscopes, otoscopes, pulse oximeters
- Prenatal vitamins - have to be halal for Muslim women
- Solar anything, especially phone chargers
- The Hellenic Midwives Association is in need of a portable ultrasound machine
Then I posted this Facebook message:
Another request for my upcoming trip to Greece. There is a volunteer group of Greek midwives working with Do Your Part at the community center. They need a portable ultrasound machine. Does anyone know anyone who works at Philips who might have a name I could contact to request a donation?
Most unexpectedly, this morning I heard from a member of my spiritual congregation, who asked me how much the ultrasound machine would cost. I found one on eBay and told him the price. Then he wrote - and this is probably one of the great honors of my life - "Linda - imagine we could easily raise that amount based on the strength of your reputation and commitment to these people."
That may happen, or it may not, but I will remember my friend's words for the rest of my life.
So, my extra suitcase will hold medical supplies this time. And two bags of McD coffee for my friend Lisa. And whatever other surprises may come along.
I had been a bit nervous about this next trip because the circumstances in Greece are different from when I was there last, and because this time I am going alone. But the hearts I am taking along with me in the form of their gifts have pretty much dissolved my unease.
We are all in this together! Thank you, thank you, thank you.