Make a difference for the Refugees in Chios

Update posted by Jia Qing Teng On Jun 06, 2018

Got a chance to head to the Hope centre today. Hope centre is a place where refugees can head there to receive their essentials (e.g. clothes/pampers/showering materials/access to showers/undergarments/sanitary pad, etc). It is also a place where families can come and rest while volunteers entertain their children.

An induction programme was held for first-timers like me and it was really informative. Every aspect of the Hope centre is well organised and briefed to us. For example, they have a packing list for different families. For families who are receiving the pack for the first time, they would get a complete pack of clothes and essentials. Thereafter, clothes will be given out monthly or fortnightly. If they were to come anytime in between, they will get access to the showering facilities and some basic essentials such as razors/sanitary pads/shampoo.

Refugees have to walk half an hour from their camp to the Hope centre to receive these supplies and they are usually by appointment only. Without which, the Hope centre will be clustered with people.

My first-hand experience with the refugees is really interesting. I did not really ask them about questions pertaining to their country or the situation by rather just sit down and play with them, entertain them while their parents take a well-deserved break. These children are just like any other children we see - mischievous, energetic, fun-loving. They're really filial children who would ask for food from us for their parents even when it is only catered for them. I was honestly touched by the daughter's request. Simple actions really do go a long way.

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Update posted by Jia Qing Teng On Jun 05, 2018

I was tasked to bring back some boxes from the municipality in Chios. Together with some volunteers, we went together to bring the boxes of donations back to the Warehouse. When we arrived at the building, it was one of the biggest abandoned building in Chios and I was surprised because there aren't many big houses in Chios. Once we contacted the locals and got in, we see about a hundred boxes of donations waiting for us. Shifting boxes of clothes/shoes/toys out of the building was no mean feat even when we have trolleys. Took everything and loaded them up the pick-up trucks and went back to the Warehouse. The pick-up trucks made 2 trips to complete the whole shifting process. Many thanks to locals with their pick-up trucks otherwise the volunteers would have a hard time shifting them.

Once we got back to the warehouse, we had to sort them out into winter and summer clothings first then according to their 4 different categories. Volunteers got to work straightaway and we managed to finish it in about an hour! Mad efficiency. We had to pack the winter clothings and seal them up as its summer right now. Thereafter while sorting the clothes into their different categories, I was amused by my lack of knowledge in clothes. Sometimes its really difficult to identify male/female clothes and even worse when you have to determine what age group does it belong to.

In the evening, we attended a session by the lawyers to answer our questions regarding the request for asylum by the refugees. It was at this point that I realise my lack of knowledge in these policies and implementations from the EU and the degree of conflict in neighbouring countries surrounding Greece. Will share more about this when I read it up and have the correct information! (I don't want to spread wrong info so give me some time on this!)

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Update posted by Jia Qing Teng On Jun 05, 2018

Arriving from Athens, I was picked up by Ruben, the Volunteer coordinator to Sunrooms (my accommodations). He told me that there would be a morning meeting at 0830 and that happens every morning. After resting for abit, I went down to share car with fellow volunteers at Sunrooms to the Warehouse. The morning meeting is to decide the tasks allocated to everyone in the morning and the important information that all volunteers needs to know. All of us sat in a circle and listened intensely as Toula (the overall coordinator) briefed us. Thereafter, meeting was dismissed and we went on the day doing our tasks.

As a first-timer, I was assigned to the warehouse with other first timers. We were given an introduction to the warehouse - the heart of CESRT. This is the place where supplies for the refugees are stocked and categorized. The warehouse is split into mainly 2 categories - 1 is for Hope and the other is for the Landings (will be explained more in detail in future). They are then sub-divided to Mens' and Women's clothings of different age group and different sizes. So basically 1 piece of clothing you donate will have to be sorted out according to 4 different categories (Gender, Type, Size, Age).

We were also briefed about the other spots on the island that is near the beach to assist with the landings. Instructions on what to give to the refugees and the standard operating procedure (SOP) is briefed to us. It was indeed a lot of information but it was definitely holistic. Dealing with refugees can be rather sensitive and at the same time you're trying to be in control of the whole situation such that it doesn't break out into chaos with people fighting for more welfare and clothings or even medical attention. More importantly, every single refugee have their own story and it can be as bad as sexual abuse or just being forced to do something. We have to arm ourselves with the knowledge on where to direct them to without imposing our personal opinion to prevent influencing them in a certain direction. Volunteers have to be delicate but firm when dealing with refugees to be in control of the situation yet providing the care they need.

Once done, I was brought back to the warehouse to do area-cleaning. It is definitely not a "glorious" work but it has to be done. These are the logistical day to day routine that are not glamourised by the media or volunteers ourselves. After finishing cleaning the whole warehouse, it was time to knock off.

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