A rainy day in the camp – boiler suits

It has been extremely cold on Samos the past few days. It is morning. The alarm clock wakes me at 08.00 and a busy day lies ahead of us. Through the window we can see the rain pouring down. Every single time it rains, I am aware of the fact that in the camps people are sleeping in tents. It doesn’t feel right and the idea makes me sad. Even though the weather creates difficulties, I’m excited to visit the camp. Why that is? We are going to do something that we’ve never done before. We can knock on peoples ‘doors’ and offer them a good morning and a boiler suit. The boiler suits are water and wind resistant and can keep a person warm. Usually only people on oil platforms and on containerships wear those type of suits, but here, in the camps, they function as XXXL sleeping bags.

The camp can be divided into three parts. A few shelters built from stone can be found on top of the hill. There is also a large tent where a lot of people can sleep and in between a lot of small tents are stored. It reminds me of a city with small streets of a medina district. To be able to reach the tents behind the shelters we have to walk over planks and hold tightly to the walls. When we look up to the sky we can see a grey linoleum functioning as a roof. When we reach a few tents we knock on the door and say good morning! A hand appears, and then a foot, and eventually a head. Good morning sir. Today, together with a few more organizations, we will be handing out shoes for men and boiler suits. They are nice and warm and during nighttime you will no longer feel the cold. When we look into the tent we can see a blanket on the floor and another refugee in a sleeping bad. Please, we would like too, thank you. He’s smiling from ear to ear.

Most of the smaller tents have been replaced by bigger ones, but still, the rain makes me realize they are tents nonetheless. We pass a few cabins on our way down where families and minors live. We are walking towards the extended area. This part of the camp is where all the tents are. Even though the tents are quite firm, there is no infrastructure what so ever. At night there is no lighting. There are no concreat roads to connect this part with other parts of the campsite. Through muddy pathways we are able to reach the tents. ‘It’s so lovely to see you all! I would like to invite you over to my tent and make music and drink some coffee.’ A kindhearted man is smiling at us, it’s the same man who will visit our milkroom every single day and drink a cup of tea with us. Sadly, we have to refuse his offer because we need to provide others with boiler suits.

With joy on our faces, we can gladly say we have handed out 170 boiler suits already. On this cold morning, we cannot stop the rain and we cannot magically heat up the tents, but at least we can give the refugees a boiler suit as a sleeping bag so their nights will be a little bit more bearable. Luckily 170 refugees will have a good night sleep tonight. We shall not stop providing these boiler suits until the single last piece will be delivered. But I cannot shed the feeling of hurt knowing that a lot of people are living in tents, and are unable to sleep at night due to the cold, and it still feels wrong that the boiler suits are needed in the first place.

Text: Rozemijn Aalpoel
Photo: Bas Bakkenes