We have a bit of a trek to cover this morning so we leave early. Cesc has been in contact with another refugee camp outside of the city, which will take us about an hour and a half to reach. I’m a little reluctant to go at all, because it doesn’t seem sustainable or wise for us to spend our time traveling there and back every day, but it can’t hurt to check it out.
We catch the bus to the train station and and pay a whopping 5€ to go one way. Another reason I don’t think this camp is a possibility for our organization – we can’t be paying 10€ each every day just to get there and back. That would seriously eat in to my 25€/day budget goal.
An hour and a half later, two volunteers pick us up from the train station in a car. We are shown around the grounds of the camp which is gigantic and stationed in an old warehouse. Walls have been built up to create individual apartments and provide privacy, but people still live behind curtains and sheets for doors like the school. There is a room dedicated to crafting goods like canvas bags and bracelets to be sold, and every refugee who works there is paid, which I think is pretty great. There are tons of volunteers, which is great and everyone is really nice, but just like the other camp, they’re not really in need of any more people. They say they’re always happy for people to come and help out with the summer camp, but that’s only 4 hours a day and I don’t think it makes sense to make that journey every day for 4 hours.
About 250 refugees live at this camp, and the majority are Afghani. I’m told that the United Nations has just removed Afghanistan’s status as a war zone, which means they’ve just dropped to the bottom of the priority list, aren’t technically refugees, can only be accepted legally into Greece, and basically aren’t going anywhere any time soon. Pretty devastating for the residents, especially considering Afghanistan is most certainly still a war zone? I google it later and can’t find any information to support this…but I’m sure the volunteer was correct when stating the residents could only be accepted to Greece and aren’t high priority anymore. He would know better than me of course…I’m just surprised Google can’t back that up.
We join in with the summer camp that very afternoon, and spend a hectic 4 hours making gimp rope bracelets, colouring, and playing with lego blocks. It’s really fun, but there’s no discipline. No inside voices. None of the full time volunteers even try. Kids are jumping on tables, yelling into the fan, demolishing lego towers. One kid stares me in the eyes as he throws a box of crayons out the window, and another volunteer picks him up and tickles him while going outside to pick it up. Not exactly how I would have handled it but k. Obviously these children haven’t lived normal lives so it’s different, I can understand that, but now seems like a good a time as any to start implementing some boundaries.
Some kids run around with water guns, or use finger guns to fake shoot me. That’s something I don’t think I’ll ever be comfortable reciprocating. I don’t even like that game with trauma-free Canadian or Spanish kids.
After the 4 hours we do a quick clean up and make a run for the train station, because if we don’t catch this one, we have to wait another 2 hours. I tell Cesc I love this place, but again, they don’t seem like they NEED us, and how can we justify the time and money required to get here? We consider looking into a car rental, which is just about the only way I we can make the trip in my opinion.
Later that night I go for some drinks at cool relatively hidden patio spot in the centre. Check out Six Dogs for a great outdoor atmosphere, an epic cocktail menu, and Atheneo, my current favourite craft beer.
10€ train ticket return