More notes from a small island – November 2015

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This is just some of the water that I have bought with money kindly donated. People are thirsty when they arrive off of the boat and it’s good to be able to give them a bottle of water for their onward journey. Today, just on the stretch of beach that I’ve been on, about 200 plus people have arrived so that’s a fair bit of water each week. I’ve also bought bananas, apples and oranges for people to eat. A never ending supply is needed.

This evening i went to buy a few balls for children to play with. ‘For the refugees? ‘ asked the elderly woman in the shop. When I said yes the price was immediately halved. The generosity and strength of the Greek people on this island is inspirational. They’ve got nothing to start with and they give of their time and resources because it is the right thing to do. Would our country do the same? Receiving people with hostility will not deter people, they are having to leave their countries. All hostility does is make life shittier for everyone all round.
I will never be able to look out to sea at a glorious sunset in the same way ever again. All i can think is that with the sun going down it gets dark and cold and people are in greater danger. Instead of marveling at the view i am scanning the horizon for boats.
After taking this photo i went back to the beach to drop the balls off and another boat was coming in. About 60 men, women and children rammed into a rubber dinghy which sat perilously low in the water. One little boy fell in but was thankfully fished out. I don’t really like to show pictures of people, especially children, but this little burst of sunshine was the one who was laughing and smiling just minutes after nearly drowning. The hat was one that belonged to my son and i brought it over to Greece with me. It has a new owner now and who knows where he and the hat will end up.

The boat was all people from Syria who left Aleppo a week ago. What a heartbreaking decision to make. Leave everything and pack your life into a tiny rucksack and run for your lives. Most of the people just cry when they talk about having to leave their country, it is not a choice made lightly. People are so incredibly grateful to be welcomed. They haven’t felt that in a long time. Some people have been in Turkey for even a couple of years waiting and hoping to return home. There they are often subjected to violence, cannot work and the children do not get an education. People speak of their money running out as they spend longer and longer in the Turkish camps and their hopes for a future fading fast as their country becomes impossible to return to. They all speak of bombs. Yesterday were some children who really brought it home, with scarred faces, fingers missing and eyes that have seen more than anyone should.
The fear that people are feeling in Europe is what these people have been feeling for a long time and some. Pretty much everyone has lost family and friends through war, torture and murder. Wouldn’t you run away too to save your children’s life, or your own. The younger men are particularly vulnerable. Stay and fight? Who exactly? You can’t fight a bomb dropping out of the sky. You can’t fight the murderers that are their government and isis. Wouldn’t we want to welcome the very people who run from the same abhorrent acts of violence that we fear? Give shelter to people who say ‘Not in my name.’
This evening i was on my own trying to sort out dry clothing and food and drink for about 25 men in a tent (quite a large tent) )all by the light of the torch on my phone. I did think that i might be the first European person that many will have met. A nutty English woman rushing about trying to find clothes and shoes. They were pretty much all wet to waist height. ‘it’s alright I’m not looking!!’ Was my loud refrain while I dished out dry socks. It was madness but the tent rang with laughter.
I don’t know where that little boy will end up. I hope his classmates love him wherever he goes to school. I hope his neighbours welcome him. He didn’t ask to be born where he was born, somewhere that the world has decided that he is not worthy to get on a ferry or a plane but must make long and dangerous journeys at extortionate cost in order not to die. That his life is somehow worth less than the next person, than other 3 or 4 year old little boys. I carry his smile and laughter and I hope he is able to carry mine with him in return.

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