Kos – The resilience of children

Today was an exciting and busy day. RTL 4 was here with a presenter and camera crew to follow us and see what the refugee situation is like at the moment. It should be a very impressive piece and will air Monday night on RTL Late Night so be sure to tune in! We had a full day planned so they could witness the various things we do here.

The alarm clock went off at 05:00. Although the Turkish coast is officially ‘closed’ we want to see if any refugees will arrive. At 05:15 Joke comes into our room. We had received a phone call about a group of Afghans that had just arrived in the harbor, and our help was needed. We jumped in the cars and headed over to see how we could help.

Then the film crew calls, they are already at the harbor and they don’t know what to do. The boat had been leaking so everyone was wet and the coast guard had even saved a child from the water. Thankfully it had all ended well. We tell him to try to reassure the refugees and that we were on our way.

When we arrive we have to move fast. A group of 20 Afghan men, women, children and babies is standing on the quay, shivering from the cold. We grab our clothing and start with the children. We quickly remove the wet clothing and put new clothes on them, sometimes in somewhat ridiculous combinations but no one cares at this point. We try to find the right size flip flops for everyone, but this doesn’t always work out (see the pictures!). When we’re done with the children we turn towards the women and men. In the meantime, we hand out water and give everyone something to eat, all whilst the cameras are filming. The stories of the refugees are told to the camera crew and translated by one of our volunteers, Maryam. Wijnand is interviewed as well. The rest of us continue doing what we came for.

After about half an hour, the refugees start to relax and we chat with them. They had tried to make the voyage 4 times already and only today had they finally been successful. They had been rowing for 7 hours to get to Kos. They’re all very tired, but happy to have made it. The children start to run around and are laughing about the outfits they are wearing. They seem to be doing well, and we are once again surprised by the resilience of children. As soon as they’re in dry clothes, have a bit of food and water, they feel safe and can go back to being children, admiring the boats in the harbor.

The camera crew leaves for Bodrum, Turkey, in order to witness the other side of the journey. In the end they don’t come back to Kos. They had filmed a lot of material the previous day and had more than enough for the broadcast.

We go back home, recover slightly, and are thankful that everything went well this time and that we were able to help. We recharge ourselves and prepare for the next activity that morning, handing out water. We do this every day at the police station, at 11:30. In one and a half hours we hand out 1,500 bottles. The people there know us and ask for help with the police, a ticket to Athens, medical care, food, shampoo, etc. At the same time a couple from Amsterdam walks up to us. They were so shocked by what they had encountered when they came to Kos for vacation that they collected money amongst their friends. They handed us a donation of 600 euros! I was incredibly touched by their generosity and could not express my gratitude enough. They even had nutritional bars with them, bags of rice, and clothing. What a heart of gold!

After handing out water we walked towards to the Afghan camp. We spent the rest of the day there handing out water, apples, oranges, flip flops, children’s shoes, etc. When we arrived a group of Afghans that had just arrived that morning on the other side of Kos city, walked into the camp. An old man suddenly collapses. People rush in to help and my sister Nelleke, who is a nurse, is quickly at his side. The man is a heart patient, and also suffers from diabetes. The heat and high blood sugar had done a number on him. He and his wife were lovingly taken care of by the people in the camp. A heartwarming scene. Thankfully he improved greatly after taking medicine. We ended our day at the camp by handing out special bags with extra fruit and vegetables for pregnant women. We had to laugh very hard when suddenly a lot of women claimed to be two months pregnant. The men laughed about it with us when we congratulated them and everyone understood that we wouldn’t be falling for that.

In the afternoon we went to our favorite place near the hospital where a small group of Syrians reside that we have gotten to know very well. When they see us, they know we’ll have a good time. Today we handed out water, fruit, toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap, shampoo, and razors for the men. It is great to see the joy on their faces! We stay for a little while to chat, play and dance with the children. The little girl in the picture with her father had danced happily while we clapped. A small boy gave me a huge hug. He was a child again for that moment.

And thus ended our day. We are thankful that we were able to do so much for the refugees today. At the same time, much remains to be done. We heard tonight that the blankets will not arrive any time soon. The Red Cross has made a request, but we know from experience that it will take a while for the finances to come through. We’ve decided to try to organize it ourselves and seek out fleece blankets. The people have been complaining about the cold at night. And it’s true. The mornings are a lot cooler now and you can tell that autumn is coming.

We ended the day with a minute silence at 20:00, to commemorate those refugees that did not make it, and in solidarity with those in the Netherlands also partaking in this activity.

Tomorrow we’ll sleep in a little bit, we’re all very tired. Unless the phone goes at 05:00. Then we pack our things and go…

(By Jolanda Kromhout https://vrijspraak.wordpress.com | Translated by Selma Rooseboom)