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19th of March 2016 – 26th of March 2016
On the 19th of March we, Hanni and Kathze, drove to Idomeni with fully packed bags of donated clothes. As it was the first operation for both of us, we didn’t quite know what would expect us at the site. The drive and the arrival on the 19th and 20th of March went without any problems, we knew beforehand, that the meeting and networking place for all volunteers was in a hotel in Polykastro, about 13 kilometres away from Idomeni, where they had a „meeting“ every day at 8pm for all of those who newly arrived in Idomeni. After we were told everything we needed to know and made ourselves comfortable in the occupied house directly beside the park hotel, it all began straight away the next morning. First of all we drove with the empty car to the camp to get an idea of how big the whole thing really was (13 000 people were living in Idomeni and its surroundings when we arrived) and where we could start handing out our donated clothes.
After that we drove fully packed to the camp (like we did the following days two to three times) and handed out shoes, jackets, trousers, baby nutrition and, if needed, also rice, to the people. Especially handy for us was the warehouse in Polykastro, which was organized by the “Czech Team”, where every volunteer could take what he thought was needed in the camp. That way we could work independently.
In the following days we got to know more and more people, who were willing to help and support us with the distributions and the problems with the logistics of the huge camp: they translated for us, carried boxes with urgently needed donations to the people and for some parts also handed them out to the people independently. Although the situation was often tense, because there consistently were rumours about a border opening, or, because some of the refugees were already stuck in Idomeni for several months and got frustrated, most people were just grateful, hopeful and tried to get the best out of the situation.
Almost every tent had its own fireplace, the people washed their clothes and tried, assumably for the thousands of children, to lead a half-way normal life. That impressed us very much, also the big hospitality, almost everybody invited us to eat or drink tea with them, was clearly sensible. Everyday there were peaceful demonstrations for the opening of the borders, once directly in front of the warehouse. It was clear to us, that the refugees had to call attention to their situation, but as they once blocked the road for a little while, we could see, that they felt uncomfortable having to demonstrate that way. Not few of them apologized to the drivers on the road for the circumstances.
It was a very intensive, exhausting but good week. Of course we could only contribute a small part in the improvement of the camp. Nevertheless, thanks to our work, hundreds of people had shoes, dry trousers or jackets. Furthermore we could buy rice and baby food for a lot of families, all thanks to our donators, who make our help on-site even possible. Thank you for that!