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CRR in Athens | BLOG

William is a long term volunteer and stays for about 3 months in Athens. CRR works from a warehouse in Athens, dozens of NGO’s and initiatives receive support with aid goods. By creating a stable platform we want to empower organisations and improve their work with thousands of refugees in the camps and on the streets. You will read how this works in the blog of William.

Volunteer work for CRR in Athens

I’m almost one month working in Athen for CRR. It sounds stereotype, but I can’be believe that a month have passed since I’m working here. I’ve seen so many already. The work in Athens is very diverse. A few jobs are: distributions in camps (there a dozen on the mainland), packing and distribution of thousands of Bibles (together with our Greek partner Hellenic Ministries), building racks in the warehouse, distributions in the city, cooking for refugees etc.

For myself it is the first time that I’m in contact with refugees outside the Netherlands. Off course, I know the stories about the life in camps, but when you see it with your own eyes you can imagine how bizarre the life here is. You see the suffering around you and you see how few people actually care. In the urban environment of Athens, with about 6 million inhabitants, there are relatively little people who offer real care. It reminds my of my first week here. We drove thru the city to deliver diapers and other hygiene items. At some moment we passed a bus station. On the sofa was a woman. Knock out. Unconscious due to the empty bottle in her hands. Her only possession she hold on to. For the citizens of Athens a normal thing, nobody shocked…

Athens is a different experience than the camps. In the camps the suffer is very close, it Athens it is not so clearly visible. A lot of sorrow and suffer is overshadowed by the cosy shopping streets, café’s and taverns you see in every street. If you look at the city a little closer, you will notice that nothing is what is seems. On the corner of some blocks you see a truck with soldiers or a van with riot police. These troops are needed because groups of drug gangs, homeless and refugees want to take over. Refugees do not have, like in the camps, a home shelter where they sleep and where you can hand our goods. In stead of that they gather at squares, parks and empty buildings.

Yesterday we’ve helped for the first time a project which is set up in the city. The project is run by Christian Cubans who are serving 3 meals per week to refugees. One on Monday, one on Wednesday and one on Friday. We’ve cooked 150 portions of pasta salad and besides that we had potatoes and flower to hand out to refugees at Victoria Square. There were more than 150 refugees however, a fight was avoided. But you could see the disappointment in peoples eyes. Something you cannot imagine. Nobody should insist or fight for food to survive. To see the disappointment for those who have no food, it is heart breaking and tears you apart.

It looks like the Athens government have moved their policy about refugees. Where refugees were tolerated before, now the government is ruling with more force. Camp Malakasa, one of the places we serve, is now equipped with concrete walls and barbed wire. Soldiers are supervising the gate. Refugees cannot come in and out. Everything is registered and checked. An Afghan family I know told me how friends of them where surprised by a visit of the government. Despite that fact that they did no live in the camp, there where registered with heir address in Athens. Because if you’re not registered you have no change for a regufee status. The government told them that they had to return to Turkey. They had a quarter to pack their goods. After they boarded the plane, hem was told that the destination was not Turkey but Afghanistan! It reminded me to the second World War. Like Jews then, refugees now life with the fear that the government can show up any minute. Besides the questions how to let your family eat today, they also are fearing to forced out of the country. And all of that after they have left their homecountry for a war. All I can have is respect for this people and what they are going thru. Helping where possible hoping for a miracle of God.

There is also hope in the city of Athens. Sometimes it looks to far way and sometimes it looks that all the good work is for nothing. God is blessing us every day with new strength. And if you hear the news of a victory, the thankfulness is even bigger. Last week I heard from Christian Iranian family that their prayer to stay in Greece is finally heard. This family have waited for 6 years for this answer. Al these 6 years, they have lived apart from each other. Mother and kids in Greece, father in Iran. After 6 years it is finally possible to see each other physically. In a free Europe where they don’t have to fear for eviction and they are free to believe. This gives to much thankfulness. This are the moments to cherish and to thank Him who created life and is taking care. All glory to God!

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