My first week here was not a regular week. I didn’t recognize this of course, but every week since has differed from the first. In the first week, we were “doing” distribution. Echo, the organization I’m working with, collects clothing donations for residents at the Hotspot. We currently have a separate location for storing donations, a garage we rent from a local on the other side of the island. It was here that I spent my first days with the other volunteers, prepping a coat, hat and scarf distribution for women and children, and then, actually doing it. The week involved monitoring mothers and their kids as they made their way thought the racks we had on display and then making certain that everyone checked out with the correct number of items.
The entire distribution took three days. Since we are responsible for moving residents from the Hotspot to the Hub or to storage, our two vans can only carry 8 passengers at a time, slowing down the process significantly. One by one, the vans would make the 15-minute journey across the island and the families would unload and begin their searches for durable winter clothing.
Although it’s the middle of the coldest months of the year here on Leros, January and February seem to be running rather mild. This seems to be the case since coats weren’t distributed earlier in the season. Nevertheless, with many refugees coming from desert and equatorial countries, even a Greek winter feels cool. Although nothing about this situation is ideal, I was happy to see that things weren’t falling apart at the seems. Leros’ camp is actually relatively decent, all things considered. I ventured over here thinking I’d be schlepping through mud in the camp during increasingly bad weather. For this reason, I brought only clothing that I’m happy to dispose of come April. I guess, really, now I just feel under-dressed most of the time.
For the most part, I think the people who passed through our distribution were happy to have new coats. Understandably, not everyone was elated; however, it’s still something. It must be so very difficult to transition from a life of supporting yourself and being able to go shopping to having to sift through donations with multiple other refugees.
With a new set of donations arriving last week, a shoe distribution is coming up next–just a week away!