The Hospital Hotel, Part 1 of 4

Everyone lives in the camps, whether you are elderly, pregnant, seven days old, or have a broken leg. You live in your tent or, if you are lucky, a “container,” which is a portable plastic room with a small window and a door.

But the UN attempts to help some of the most vulnerable people—those who are very sick and would absolutely not do well in the camp environment. For a select few of these people, there is the Hospital Hotel. Inside you’ll meet the kindest people in the world with stories that will shatter you. They are “survivors” in a way that my American self absolutely can’t relate to. They all have extensive medical needs, which is how the hotel got its nickname.

It’s a neat building in the center of town, walking distance from the other two camps, with rooms arranged around a central staircase.

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Maja and I squeezed into the back seat of Sofia’s car to deliver the things she bought for residents of the Hospital Hotel.

Maja and I squeezed into the back seat to deliver the things Maja purchased for residents of the Hospital Hotel.

Maja and I squeezed into the back seat to deliver the things Maja purchased for residents of the Hospital Hotel.

Maja, a Swedish volunteer, took me to visit on my second day. She had made friends with one of the residents and, while she was visiting, got to know a handful of others who told her what they needed for supplies. Maja took me with her to deliver their requested items, which she had purchased with her own savings and packed into separate kitchen-sized garbage bags labeled by room number.

News spreads quickly in a small community, and after knocking on a couple of doors to deliver bags, more people came out to see what was going on.

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Moms choose clothing for their babies. Faces covered to protect their privacy. 

It became a big party, with many smiles and children running up to us for a snuggle or a sticker. Many moms had asked for kid-sized hair elastics, and the shop hand thrown in an entire bag for free. One of the greatest joys I’ve experienced while being here was having *enough* to give to everyone who *wants.* Kids from age 2 – 9 toddled up to me with smiles and kisses, and they all got several little hair bands. I must have made 17 pigtails and countless bracelets.

Then one mom asked if I had any baby shampoo. She hasn’t washed her newborn in several days, and his hair is getting nasty. Another mom asked if I might have any long-sleeved tunics for her, and also a pair of shoes for her older daughter, who was standing in front of me with cracked sandals.

I smiled and said sure, then reached into my notebook to write down their requests, along with sizes and their room numbers.

Ears and eyebrows perked up from across the room, and soon everyone had a special request for themselves, their kids, and their husbands.

No problem, I thought. I have money for this—helping individual families is exactly what I have allocated a portion of my fundraising money to. And while looking at babies wearing winter-weight clothing in 90-degree heat and kids wearing shoes way too big or small, I was thrilled to help however I could.

I started a page in my notebook for every room and, one by one, wrote down what they needed: Jeans size small, sandals size 22, shorts for a child aged nine. Sometimes I’d ask for a size and mom would shrug.

I’d figure it out. Nothing is impossible.

Right?

*****

I am home now but will continue to post stories from my time volunteering for refugees in Greece. I am also extending my fundraiser to fill five important needs: strollers, suitcases, food for new arrivals at boat landings, organized activities for unaccompanied minors, and the Refugee Garden Kids in Istanbul. Learn more here: https://www.youcaring.com/refugee-garden-kids-istanbul-and-…

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