I have taken orders for 15 families and think, My God. What have I done?
Even with my donors’ generous donations, I can’t buy everything they need. I think of the single widow pregnant with twins, the old man with a heart condition, the girl with legs that don’t work the way she needs them to, the boy with epilepsy, and I am afraid to let them down.
I freak out in a chat with my Facebook friend who has volunteered on Chios before. She says, “Why don’t you look in Toula’s warehouse?”
“Toula has a warehouse? I only know of the other one, and it’s pretty sparse right now.” I said.
“No! Go ask Toula and see what she can do for you.” I had met Toula on my first day here, because I heard she was amazing and I wanted to introduce myself. She is a local hotel owner who also founded Chios Eastern Shore Response Team – CESRT almost a year ago. With a giant team of volunteers, CESRT does everything from sea rescue to distributing clothes. And she is totally crazy in the most amazing way.
On the first day I met her, she invited me in, gave me water, and kept up our conversation between phone calls and text messages about CESRT activities. A hotel patron stuck her head inside and whispered something to Toula. Without skipping a beat in our conversation, she went into her closet, pulled out two rolls of toilet paper, and gestured wildly with one in each hand while she told me about her work with unaccompanied minors. Then she went next door to deliver them to the patron who had just asked for them.
I freaking love Toula.
So when my friend told me she has a warehouse, I practically run down the street to Toula’s room.
I knock on her door but she doesn’t answer. So I knock again and yell, “Toula? This is Marcy! Do you have a second?”
She answers the door wearing a towel and her hair is lathered in shampoo.
“What the hell are you doing?” I yell at her. “You didn’t have to answer the door! For crying out loud, go and take your time. I’ll wait for you outside.”
Three minutes later she was dressed and called for me to come in.
That’s how the helpers are. They prioritize helping first, and fit in everything else around it.
I tell her what I need.
“Yes! Of course,” she says. “We have everything. Take whatever you need.”
She brings me to a volunteer who lives downstairs, and he agrees to take me to the warehouse right away.
One look at the warehouse and I am touched by the support of people from around the world who want to help refugees. It is a giant, two-story barn that contains clothing and shoes in every size, plus things like diapers, soap, and toiletries.
Every single thing has either been shipped directly or purchased with funds from private donors. One peek in this giant castle of goodness could restore your faith in humanity. People are so good.
And I’m so glad because I have a bazillion things to find. I begin at the top of my list and make little outfits for all the kids, then move on to the adults. Volunteers from Toula’s team offer to help, and after a couple hours we’ve made a giant dent in the list. Then I head to the tent just outside that contains shoes.
I’ve never seen so many boxes of random shoes. I find many that will work but am missing about sixteen pairs. That feels like a manageable number to buy from the discount shop. Add them to the other lists of things missing at the warehouse—like long-sleeved tunics and leggings—and I’m ready to go shopping.
It takes me three days, help from Sofia and Carlos (my Portuguese partners in crime!) and trips to three different stores, but I finally have almost everything they’ve asked for. Sofia finds 15 large trash bags and delivers everything to my hotel. One night, at 8:00 PM, I start sorting the items into bags, one for every room.
At 11:00 PM I decide I hate pants and can’t even deal with shoes. I take a shower and fall into bed, ignoring the fact that my room looks like Target at noon on Black Friday. But I fall asleep happy, thinking mostly about the kid with cracked sandals putting on the new sneakers she’ll get tomorrow.
Read more from this series about the Hospital Hotel:
- Part 1: The Hospital Hotel
- Part 2: The Man from Room 257
- Part 3:Shopping Spree
- Part 4: Special Delivery
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-…