Today we shared boilersuits and shoes to many people in the camp on Samos. Lots of people showed up to receive the warm clothes. Of course I know their stories and their past, but still I was very conflicted and having mixed feelings. On the one hand is it great to see that so many people donate clothes, shoes, jackets and other well needed supplies, but on the other hand there are people in line who had their lives totally figured out and had to flee the country due to the life threatening circumstances. A police man form Afghanistan, whose life was on the line because of his profession. A cartoonist that had to flee because his cartoons were controversial. An engineer who together with his mother travelled to Europe to reunite with his brothers, and does such a well job of taking care of his mother. These people are in line, waiting for shoes. Depended on donations.
Halfway through our shift we switched tasks. Now I was the one searching for refugees. I saw an Algerian family that I had met two days ago, with two adorable little girls. The eldest one just turned five yesterday. I was allowed to see their situation and I was shocked. They were provided with two bunkbeds, which they pushed together and sheltered it with blankets. Just to have a little privacy. Their youngest daughter was sitting on the bottom beds, while the eldest one showed me that she sleeps under a canvas on the top beds. And all the sudden it hit me: this was their existence, the way they live right now. Their future uncertain. Every night I can sleep in a house for volunteers, where the heater doesn’t work and we wear jackets inside the house. But still we have portable heaters to provide a little heat. This week I had to share my room with two different, lovely, people. And it might be uncomfortable at times, and not similar to home at all, but I have the prospect of leaving in over two weeks. Pack my things and fly back home. These bunkbeds are their home. For now, and it might for a very long time to come.
Text: Harma Oosting
Photo: Bas Bakkenes