Greece: Children in limbo

With the closure of neighboring borders, tens of thousands of refugees are trapped in Greece, including over 1900 unaccompanied minors. Many of these refugees escaped war after losing siblings, parents, relatives, friends, neighbors, homes, and their livelihoods. Many have followed family members who have already secured asylum in other countries away from the daily bombings, lack of food and water, and fear for life in general.

Nothing is more difficult than lingering all day with little else to do than waking up. Working with Humanity Crew, a Palestinian NGO with Arabic-speaking staff, KinderUSA sponsored a day of joy this Eid ul Fitr.

Board member, Lamis El Farra, visited Divata camp near Thessaloniki, Greece to witness the impact of KinderUSA’s Eid ul Fitr gift program supported by your donations. Distributing reusable bags filled with paints, drawing materials, and toys to 1,000 children at a cost of US $20,000, Lamis reported back that your donations provided a ray of light in the lives of these children. We share her journey with you here:

“Greece is struggling. Thessaloniki had a lot of closed storefronts, graffiti and crumbling infrastructure. Yet the Greeks we spoke with were unanimous that those in need could not be turned away, saying; “It’s humanity.”

Diavata camp where the distribution took place is a former military installation with various office buildings for the camp administration and coordinating non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Hope is in short supply amongst the camp population as there is much uncertainty among the residents about their fates. One can imagine that camp life gets monotonous and frustrating, exacerbated by lack of privacy and perspective. Most basic needs are met (there is also a health clinic) and our partner, Humanity Crew, has started a school.

One resident is Abu Shawkat, originally from Tiberias/Galilee, who has led a nomadic life, with time spent in Libya, Yemen, Gaza, Tunis, and Syria, which was his last home before ending up in Diavata Camp. He lost his wife in Syria when their house was bombed. Two of his children are now in Sweden, lost in the hustle and confusion of boarding their rafts to Greece. The family was forced by the smugglers on to different boats and Abu Shawkat’s boat was stopped by border patrol while the raft carrying his children continued.

There was a young woman in a nearby tent who was overcome by seizures that doctors have not been able to diagnose. She was prostrate on the ground with two people holding her as they tried to calm her as her body twitched. The eldest of her two sons was about three years old and began to cry as he witnessed his mother’s distress. Her seizures are worse and occur more frequently now. Her husband is in Germany and is trying to come to Greece, but like so many others, their future is uncertain.

In addition to the Eid gifts, we (KinderUSA) arranged to provide baklawa for the entire camp, prepared and delivered by a local bakery, Chatzis (the best baklawa in Greece!). People lined up outside the tent to enjoy the warm baklawa, a treat beyond the food distributed by the camps administration. Two young men from the camp helped serve the baklawa to the beneficiaries, one cutting and plating, the other, Afiz from Afghanistan, checking the number of pieces per household.

Thank you to all who contributed to make this event possible!

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