Our back packs are loaded up with medical supplies as we hike around the camp checking in on everyone we meet. I call out for women who are staying in their tents and Ravi shakes the hands of the men gathered around in a circle. I am invited by the women into their make shift homes, greeted with a smile and we communicate in 2 very different languages but always understanding each other as we hold eye contact. Burns, infected wounds, rashes, insect bites, chest infections, throat infections, dehydration, hunger… the biggest problem however is fear, uncertainty and exhaustion.
We come across a line up, hundreds of people waiting to see if it is their turn to receive their registration papers and then leave onto the next stage of their journey. The sun is beating down and children and babies are quiet and floppy. We distribute water and rehydration salts and encourage mothers to move into the shade. One thing I have learnt out here is that children bounce back quickly, within an hour as we pass by again to check up on the little ones, they are laughing, crying and trying to run away from their mothers to explore. On the whole, there is no advance medical treatment needed, just basic, practical support and advice.
A young man and his 3 friends from Syria approach us and he hands us some recent blood results. He is in renal failure and requires renal dialysis 3 times a week. It is overdue and he looks ill. Advocacy time. After negotiating with the police and working with a wonderful field worker from the UNHCR, the young man and his friends are registered, get their papers and we pay for him to take a taxi to the hospital. His friend asks me with hope in his eyes ‘will he be helped in every country he passes through?’ I answer honestly, ‘I don’t know’. What I don’t explain as I feel he already knows is that without regular dialysis he will die. He has no country to return to and no guarantee to be accepted into another country.
A young husband and wife approach us, she is 2 months pregnant and is bleeding. There is fear but also hope in their eyes. Hope that we might be able to help them…
We find a man with cardiac problems slumped on a wire fence, low oxygen levels, high pulse rate, pale, sweating and asking for help.
We come across a lady travelling with 2 young children and a baby she gave birth 2 days ago. She gave birth in Turkey in the ‘jungle,’ where the smugglers keep people before they make the crossing. The day after, she travelled across the ocean in a dingy. She has no support, no money and is exhausted. Any mother knows that what she is running from must be unspeakable for her to take her children on this journey.
A 4 year old boy is covered in scars from burns obtained when his house was bombed. His father has died and now his mother is fleeing trying to save their lives.
People need shelter, blankets, food, medical care and comfort. And thanks to you all, we have been able to provide this for the people we have come across who are in this need. Through desperation comes hope and inspiration. The people we met are gracious and thankful. They laugh, cry and share what little they have. This is just the beginning of their journey.
We had dinner with the other volunteers from Health Point Project on our last night. We laugh together, we cry together. The camp has temporarily quietened down since we arrived, there is time to breath, think, and prepare for the rain. We are told there is a shortage of boats, bad weather and political meetings, which decrease the number of refugees arriving.
We feel like we have achieved something. Out of chaos has come calm. However, we then receive a message to say that within the first hour of darkness 30 boats have just arrived on the north coast and will be transported to Moria. It has begun again, and will continue for a long time I feel.
While preparing a vacant tent for the next family, I came across a card. It has a black and white photo on the front and on the back, it read:
“And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it” –Roald Dahl.
By Sarah Entwistle