After almost 24 hours of travel, I’m settled in my home-away-from-home for the next three weeks. SCM is so well-organized that the travel was smooth and trouble-free. I flew through Athens to Mytilene, the airport at the south end of the island. There I was met by the mission manager, Jamal, who happens to be the charming, efficient and competent nephew of Rita, the fearless leader of SCM. I traveled part of the way with another Seattleite, Tawfik, who is originally from Jordan. I am surrounded by like-minded people all here with one goal: to help where needed and buoy up these weary refugees as they pass through.
It was a cheerful and energetic crowd in the SCM van traveling from the Mytilene airport to the Molyvos hotel—six European young people several of whom are spending their “gap year” volunteering here with Starfish which is a wonderful organization helping and coordinating with SCM. The Starfish volunteers were brimming with sugar-induced energy and cheerful friendliness until they all fell asleep in the van like a pile of puppies who have been playing and working and going non-stop. I can tell I’m going to have a lot of fun with them when our paths cross. I could definitely see my daughters doing something like what these admirable young volunteers are doing.
Today conditions on the island changed—again—because the ferries transporting refugees from Lesbos to Athens are closed to refugees for the next ten days. Athens has been deemed overcrowded with refugees, so as they arrive, the refugees are stuck here on the island for at least a week and a half unless something changes. This means that we’ll be doing some work in the camps on the south end of the island. Usually the camps are temporary and transitory, but this will keep people there longer with a developing backup unless the policy changes before the 10 days are up.
It is definitely a bizarre contradiction of realities—this beautiful tourism paradise overlaid with the flow of refugees passing through.
Here is what I saw as we drove into the beautiful town tonight:
Tomorrow we will see more in the daylight, and on Monday I expect to be working in the camps which will bring the harsh reality slamming down.