Exceptionally hard week in Samos island. On Tuesday morning the souls of the three young children from one of the sunken boats were finally laid to rest. Although honoured to be asked to attend, the despair and grief as the little bodies were laid respectfully in a shared grave in a corner of the cemetary should remind us all of the human side of a crisis so often portrayed as just a news story focused on statistics and political games. The families, still suffering, must now leave behind the graves of their children and continue on for the sake of their surviving children … a journey forced upon them by war!
I was asked to go to the port police station also since our last post to deal with families from a second boat tragedy. 11 people lost heir lives only 25 metres off the shore. All women and children. One man spoke of how he was fleeing war in Syria with his family, only for tragedy to follow. That morning he had a wife, 2 daughters and a son …. now he has to find a life for just him and his baby boy as his wife and two young daughters bodies were taken from the boat. I cradled a young girl until she finally fell into a fitful sleep. ” N” is eleven years old and was travelling with her mama, her brother and her sister … all except “N” perished on the boat. I stayed with her in the police station and later in the pediatric wing of the hospital until finally the next day we could reunite her with her father…. The bodies of her family were taken on the ship last night to Athens where they will be buried. Sadly these are just a small percentage of the lives being lost and destroyed .
We have also had to deal with various vulnerable cases this week. Cases needing help with counselling, families travelling with handicapped children, elderly parents, women travelling alone or with children and a lack of information before arriving in Greece.
All of this has been compounded this week by a ferry strike. The ferries stopped running on Monday and did not resume untill last night ( Friday). The smugglers did not stop which resulted in there being approximately 6000 on Samos port. We try our best, we all do , but we did not, do not have the capability or materials to help these numbers. Because of this, many people suffered even more this week. We did not have enough blankets or shelter to go around. Hundreds were forced to sleep on the cold concrete of the quayside with perhaps only a jacket as cover. As I write we still do not have enough blankets for tonight and we are about to run out of nappies for the children.
Unsurprisingly, this has all resulted in tension on the port….but thankfully we all still manage to cooperate and try to do our best… NGO, volunteers , civil society and refugee… we all take up a broom or a pair of rubber gloves at the end of a day ( usually well after midnight) and do our best to clean the port… we get offered so much help as volunteer translators from many people arriving here … Arabic,Afghani, Pakistani or Iranian… all wanting to help.
So, as I said , no week is easy but this one was harder than ever. Tiredness, sometimes a total sense of despair and a huge sense of loss … and then a young girl, in the midst of grief hugs you, kisses you and hands you a small gift of a beautiful pendant that I will keep forever and it is a stark reminder to appreciate what we have, remember how blessed we are and continue to fight for justice, for a more equal society and a chance for children, mama’s, papa’s to never have to flee war, bury their families because of War…a chance to just live.
Last night we said goodbye to some of these families.. we exchange whatsapp contacts and wait and pray in the hope that someday they will contact us to say they are safe, happy and finally living….
And now, yet again, I make no apologies in asking for help. We desperately, desperately need funding for more blankets, tents, nappies and baby milk as well as so much more. Any amount, every amount will and does help . So many of you have helped already, so many people have at least been warm and dry in Samos because of you. Thank you.
You can donate via PayPal or contact us for more information on how to help or for bank details for transfer. Jennygraham7@gmail.com
As always, please share to reach as many as possible, we appreciate any and all support,
Derek and Jenny.