I arrived home last night around 7 pm mentally and physically drained after a rather heavy day. The suffering, the injustice, the lack of humanity brought me to an uncomfortable space. I was at a loss of words and couldn’t find the ability to socialize as the reality of the day set in.
We were rather surprised in the morning as we arrived to an empty park with 300 falafels in the trunk. We stood around the car wondering what to do, but before long, our friends started coming around. They led us to their families who were scattered around side streets, parking lots, small parks, and abandoned buildings in the neighborhood.
After a few side streets, one persistent man led us to an abandoned building. We crept in through an opening in the fence to rather heart-wrenching conditions.
The smell of urine was so strong that I couldn’t help but stop in my tracks. Note to self, do NOT breathe through your nose. Watch every step you take to avoid stepping in human feces.
We walked through the building where we found many of the families from the park with their young children. The guys went around hollering downstairs and around the sides to tell their friends to come.
Thanks to a donation from Seeds of Humanity we were able to provide each homeless refugee in the area with a falafel wrap. We arrange for the refugee with a falafel stand in Vasilika Camp to prepare the 300 falafels for us to distribute. Our friends near the park were so happy to have a substantial meal that it was the first morning we were not asked for bananas. :).
We approached one family hiding under a small patch of shade as the mother was sitting up from a nap. As I looked at this woman I saw my mother. These are educated people who once had a house, a car, a comfortable life.
In this moment I lost the sense of ‘us’ and ‘them’ completely. There was no ‘me’, no ‘you’. These people are my family and I was so grateful to shower the little ones in love. I don’t know that I have ever felt such a deep level of compassion as I did in this moment.
After wandering through the area to ensure each of our friends received a falafel and a bottle of water, we headed back to the car. We all stopped in our tracks when we saw a young boy walking through the city street with no underwear or pants on. I was stunned and all i could think was “oh my God, this poor child”. As we got closer to him we saw the diarrhea all over his legs.
This young boy passed local cafes and shops… He walked past grown men drinking coffee. How could one possibly sip their coffee while seeing this poor child like this? I felt sick. I couldn’t wrap my head around the situation. My brain told me, “pants, we must find pants”.
Ranine and I ran to find a shop with clothing for this child while Larissa helped him to get clean. My heart sank for this child. My heart sank for the mother sleeping among feces and a strong smell of urine with her young babies. My heart sank for the conditions we are allowing our fellow brothers and sisters to live in.
The days continue to pass, and the situation continues to worsen. We are seeing more and more skin integrity problems. We have seen chicken pox, open wounds all over an infant’s face, infected bug bites, warts all over children.
The past few days have given me a reminder of the severity of this crisis. They have brought clarity through all of the darkness. I honestly feel ill just thinking about the conditions we are witnessing, but I am grateful for the opportunity to be here, for the opportunity to serve our global community.
I see the beauty in the smiles of the elderly woman, in the hugs and laughter of the children, in the volunteers from around the globe coming together. I see beauty through the darkness as I long for better days.