When our team finally managed to make it out to the camp we went for a 24 hour shift. It was actually three shifts, all stacked on top of each other. We arrived around three o’clock in the afternoon. The site supervisor, Laura, walked us through the different stations and we decided where we would like to work. The camp where we were working is called Skala Sykamineas. There is no town of that name, but the town right beside the camp is called Sykaminea. Skala is a Greek word that means ‘stairs to the port’.
The station I was working at is where the refugees come to after receiving water and a banana. They didn’t come directly to me because I was working in the kitchen tent, but I saw them go by on their way to the big refugee tent. I made a huge pot of Afghani tea. Afghani tea is tea leaves and lots and lots of sugar. They like it super sweet. Sickeningly sweet. SO sweet. Okay, I think you get the picture! I only had to make one pot of tea and there was still just about half a pot when we left 24 hours later. I also had a pot of hot water always on the stove and ready to use. The baby food was in the kitchen tent, so I would rinse baby bottles and put the hot water and milk powder in them for the moms. It was a little overwhelming at first to be the one in charge of the kitchen and working by myself. I was sort of just thrown into the job with very little explaining on what I was supposed to do exactly. Laura came and explained how to do it all again (which was a lot less and easier than the people who had been in the kitchen before had said) and said if I needed anything she was there to help. She was so kind to me and it helped so much knowing that she would come and help me if I needed her. Even though she was super busy, she stopped to make sure I was alright and it made such a difference.
My job was actually pretty laid back. I made the tea and when it was ready I went out with a stack of cups and a pitcher of tea and passed it out to the refugees. Even though I wasn’t really talking with the people it was nice to interact with them a bit. They were so grateful for the tea. It was really eye opening to me. Here I was just giving them a cup of tea and they had tears in their eyes and huge smiles on their faces. It was such a small thing, but it meant so much to them.
Because my job wasn’t really time consuming I was able to help in a few of the other stations. I took over handing out water and bananas for a couple hours, which I loved doing. It was so exciting to see the refugees arriving and being one of the first people they saw when they walked into camp. I was also able to help out in the clothing tent with another lady on my team. We sorted donations and Rachel organized the whole tent. It was so messy when we first arrived, but with Rachel’s hard work and my help it looked so good when we left the next day.
I was still sick while we were there so the team let me sleep through the night; I didn’t have a shift during the night (there are always a few people awake during the night in case refugees arrive). I slept in one of the clothing containers. It was freezing cold, but I managed to sleep and I am so grateful the rest of the team was willing to take my shift. In the morning I handed out rice pudding to the refugees that had stayed overnight and then I passed out more tea. It was fun. As more refugees began arriving in camp I helped hand out more water and bananas. In total we had 1, 100 refugees come through the camp in the 24 hours we were there.
It was bittersweet leaving Skala Sykamineas. I was ready to leave, but I enjoyed working out there. It was so good. I would love to do something similar in the future.