Kos – Handing out toiletries

After handing out 1,500 bottles of water , dozens of men surrounded her. I could see something interesting was going to happen, so I joined the crowd. They started off by learning a few English words with the help of a translator in the crowd. Amazing how these men are hoping their dreams will come true in a country where they don’t even speak the language. She then continued about cultural practices, like how you never ask a woman how old she is in our culture. The men listened attentively to the translator, who was speaking with such conviction that the crowd kept getting larger. He spoke like a preacher when translating our words, seemingly in much more detail than what we said. We saw a chance to spread even more information so the impromptu session turned into an educational moment which included health and personal hygiene.

The following topics were addressed: Always say ‘please’, be polite. So instead of ‘give me water’, say ‘give me water, please.’ Don’t throw your trash on the ground, but put it in the available containers that are nearby. Clean up your mess and keep the area clean. This is better for your health. Keep your nails short. When we hand out items, don’t rush to snatch everything up but stand in line and wait your turn. We promised to come back that afternoon with soap, toothbrushes, toothpaste, and razors, if they keep to these agreements.

So we quickly went and bought 500 tubes of toothpaste and the same amount in soap, toothbrushes and razors. We made toiletry sets from ziplock bags in the dining room of the hotel.

When we came back at 17:30, we were pleasantly surprised by the 3 queues that had been formed to receive the toiletries. A good translator was once again present. After happily receiving their items, the men dispersed in all directions once again.

To end the day we cleaned up the area with several willing volunteers. We filled dozens of trash bags together. I hope some of these lessons and practices will linger on.

Kos – Beautiful people

Last night we drove to the coast to see if any boats would arrive. Nothing happened however. We did see the coast guard patrolling the area. Turkey is ridiculously close, the sea of lights that is Bodrum. There was too much wind and therefore heavy waves. This morning the large ferry came into the harbor, leaving quickly with thousands of refugees on board.

But many still remain. It is a bizarre mix of two worlds. There are two types of tourists here in the touristic center of Kos city. You have the ‘normal’ tourists who are standing around like one would do around a train wreck, and then there are the refugees, mostly Syrians, and often times families. We saw a 12-day old baby, born in Kobani. And then there are the Pakistanis, Afghans and Bengalis, mostly young men with a single dream, to reach Germany! Lastly there are Saudis, sheik-like people, and Africans.

This morning we continued to carry out our routine of handing out water to the people waiting in the hot sun at the police station. This evening we handed out toiletries (toothpaste, toothbrushes, soap, shampoo, etc.) to the Pakistanis, who were in dire need of these items. We also treated a burn wound and a broken toe.

We met with Doctors without Borders (MSF) this afternoon. They asked if Pieter would join them as a doctor and Hillien as a lactation expert.

And finally, what beautiful people.
2 examples:
1. A mother who is on vacation with her two daughters, and another Dutch girl, have helped every single day with handing out items. Tomorrow they return to their homes with special memories. The coming days a Dutch woman and an Irish couple will also be helping out, they were moved by what they saw us do. Other people heading here on vacation have offered to bring a suitcase with supplies.

2. We had dinner at an Armenian Greek restaurant. He asks us, “what are you paying for the water bottles?” Well, €5 for 24 bottles. That is much too expensive, he said indignantly. “I’ll sell them to you for €3.50, the purchase price.” This obviously saves a lot of money when we’re buying over 1,000 bottles each day. “It is a present from me for the refugees.” This makes us very happy. The Greek are truly beautiful people!

We talk to a lot of Greeks about their thoughts regarding the refugee crisis and politics. This shows the other side of things. Which is very understandable. It is a difficult situation for them. Some places are complete messes. Tents are everywhere. People are sleeping on the sidewalks on pieces of cardboard. The penetrating smell of urine is sometimes unbearable, and the women have to use the toilets in restaurants. Shopkeepers and other business owners are suffering a loss of income.

The problem is too big for the Greeks to handle alone. Europe must start taking responsibility. In spite of everything, refugees remain people, in need of humanitarian help.

We are thankful that we can be here and help out.

Update: this morning we were offered water for only €1.27!