Alright. Another day, another attempt at getting sorted in the squatters residence. The Portuguese volunteers are opening the clothing donation room for distribution and suggest we come help out at noon. Again, we arrive on time. Again, no one is around.
We do manage to get keys to the donation room and try to prepare, but we’re not sure if there’s a system in place so we just wait…and wait, and wait. It’s now 12:30 and no sign of anyone. Some of the residents have started showing up so we’re just scribbling down (our best attempts) at names and room numbers, and trying to keep some order to boxes as people rifle through and toss aside what they don’t want. They are supposed to be limited to 1 item each but sometimes I let them take 2 because I’m weak and can’t say no.
PSA: Please stop donating your tube tops, mini skirts, and silver stilettos to refugees.
I can assure you no one is wearing them.
It’s super hectic to say the least, yet we survive. The Portuguese volunteers roll up at 2pm when everything is winding down, claiming they slept in. As previously stated, the lack of organization here is astounding.
We are invited to come along to the market with the other volunteers and Youssef, one of the managers of the residence. He is from Egypt and has been living here for 7 years with his family. One of his teenage sons has been accepted to Germany and lives there with a host family. We all walk to the market where the Portuguese volunteers use some of the money they’ve raised to buy breakfast ingredients for all the residences in the squat. With Youssef along with us he is able to get unbelievably good prices for the bulk purchases. I assume, or at least like to believe, that the vendors cut a bit of a deal for the refugees.
One of the market’s fruit vendors is very enthusiastic about his job, and takes a liking to me. I am given grapes which I share with the boys, then a plum, some peaches, a banana. another plum. I now have so much fruit I don’t think I’ll need lunch! I try to offer him money but he won’t take it.
After the market Youssef invites us over to his house where we sit down for some tea with his wife and family. He doesn’t live inside the squat, he lives in a flat around the corner. I’m still unsure of how it works or who pays for it, but this is a perk of being one of the managers, I guess! He and his family are just the most lovely people. His wife offers to teach me how to cook, and they say I am welcome in their home any time.
Youssef (or by his nickname, Babba) and I have an interesting conversation about the organization at the squat and the constant rotation of volunteers. He says it’s hard on the managers and he finds it hard to achieve anything big in 10 days or even 3 weeks. He also says it’s hard on his kids. They get attached to people who leave; again and again and again.
He also mentions people who come in with their cameras; snapping photos of the resident’s tight living quarters and children’s faces without consent.
The English lessons are a problem because they don’t have one consistent English teacher. It’s hard to establish a routine when classes are every afternoon at 2pm…for 3 weeks…then don’t exist again until a few weeks later when the next volunteer arrives. This is impossible for me to change in my measly 3 weeks here, but it’s in the back of my mind and I’m going to try and come up with some solution. At least a system to document what time and place I hold the lessons, what I covered, etc., so that the next teacher can at least try to stay consistent with it. I don’t know. If you have suggestions please feel free to send them my way.
I’m much more comfortable with tea today than I was last time. The ease of communication is probably a factor, but I’m relieved to know I won’t be awkward forever. We go back to the squat after to do some more work in the clothing donation room, then head home for a relaxing and early night. Tomorrow, Cesc and I plan to visit another refugee camp outside the city centre and see if our association can help. I’m interested to see how this one will look/be organized in comparison to the 2 I have now seen.