Change, Coincidence and Focus
Blogging is tough for me to do. It's something I want to do more often and on a regular basis but it requires time and thought and effort and energy that sometimes, much of the time, I just can't, and sometimes won't, muster up. I have tons of half-written blog posts floating around in my head that I just didn't make the time to sit down and write out. I honestly hope to get back to those half-baked mental blog posts and write them down at some point--one day, someday. When I write, it's for a number of reasons. It's to share my experiences so those of you who say you live vicariously through me get to come along on an adventure with me. It's to document what's happening so when my memory fades, I have something I can go back to and vividly recollect the memories. It's to share what I've learned or am learning and to hear back from you so we can collectively grow as a community. It's therapeutic for me sometimes as it serves as a space where I can write down my thoughts and try to put them in some sort of order. I wish I could express to you what it means to me knowing that you, yes you, are reading my posts. It seriously blows me away every single time that someone tells me about a post that I wrote and their reaction to it, whether it's a debate or connects to a different experience or helped them in some way or just gave them something to do. Every. Single. Time. Thank you <3 I've officially been on Lesvos for one week now. I'm making an effort to blog or post on Facebook or share a photo on Instagram, almost daily, during my current trip, often time falling asleep with my phone in my hand, a sentence half-written. There's so much that happens every day that the only thing I can do after getting home from a shift is sleep. A key takeaway that I've picked up from volunteering in a crisis zone is that things change, constantly. The number of refugees coming in changes daily, usually contingent on the weather. The phone numbers you call to contact people changes along with the person who you need to contact. Procedures are being created on the fly and policy is changing almost daily. Being flexible and adapting is key. Every day truly is different.
On Friday, I worked from 9am-4pm and instead of handover to the afternoon shift, we got news the barn we were operating out of was going to close for a few days to prepare for a structural upgrade. From my understanding, and this had been mentioned earlier in the week, we were getting a new structure that would make the building safer, more permanent and give us more room to operate. Yes, yes, and yes! As much as we'd love for these things to happen overnight, it requires planning and shifting to make a change like that happen. Given that the weather is getting colder and while we still have a fair amount of refugees entering the camps, it's lower than it would be during the summer time and fair weather, so this was the time to do it.
Coincidentally, seriously--think of a perfect storm, the same day (Friday), several volunteers who were part of the lifeguard teams that rescued people and boats as they approached the island were arrested for "aiding illegal entry of foreigners into the country". While I have not yet personally met or witnessed a boat rescue yet (it's something I do wish to help with though), this news sickens me. I've heard stories about ProemAid and Team Humanity and the great work they have done to help boats that are struggling on the approach to the island to make it to land safely as well as rescuing those in distress. (Update: based on what I see on the Proem-Aid Facebook page, they were freed tonight though they need to return to stand trial for other charges. Keep an eye out for a news article confirming, I'll keep my fingers crossed and eyes open for the same as well.)
To add to the perfect storm, there have been some policy changes by the local government here. From what I've been able to gather but am not positive about is that there will be a way for volunteers to register their presence on this island, whether they are independent volunteers or part of an NGO, especially if you're a medical professional. I don't know exact numbers but the island must see a lot of new faces, refugees and volunteers alike--I wonder if policy is to help track who is actually on the island and in what capacity. Or could be a completely different reason. I'm new, I don't know a lot, there are a lot of opinions and rumors and stories that swirl around and I try not to get caught up in the hype and just listen and observe most of the time.
So basically, there's a lot of change, there's a lot of uncertainty and people are working around the clock trying to figure it out as soon as possible so we can get back to why we're here: to help the refugees. Patience and kindness is also critical as things are being sorted, patience with waiting for things to become more clear as well as patience and kindness towards each other. It can be frustrating to be here and not know how to help (or expecting to help in a certain capacity and that not being the case), but we're all human, we're all here for the same reason, we're all in this together. Something else that I've learned early on is that there is no such thing as helping in a better or worse way, help is help and every bit counts. If you can speak another language, the best use of your skills is going to be to put you in an interpreter role, but let's say there are enough interpreters (there aren't but pretend with me), then you might be asked to help with giving out clothing or directing people around the camp, which are just as important. And at the end of the day, both acts still make an impact. The result is the same--those who need it are helped.
There are so many different things I can say or feel right now but the only one that matters is my desire to help, however that may be. Here's to keeping my focus.