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Metadrasi - Chios team s

Three days with METAdrasi’s team in Chios

A member of our team recounts:

“A few days ago I was in the island of Chios, in the context of a humanitarian aid distribution mission in VIAL Reception and Identification Center (bit.ly/2mQODKo). The distribution process was rather demanding, since on the first day we allocated 500 pairs of shoes, broken down by size and the second 250 baby and child care kits, according to age and sex. The crowd was immense and we had to move fast and with prompt coordination. Thankfully, everything went well! I was shocked by the number of kids I saw in VIAL, babies, pregnant women… With each “thank you” I heard, I felt a lump in my throat for not being able to do more for these people at that moment…

METAdrasi’s local team (15 interpreters, three local coordinators, 8 lawyers, two members of the Guardianship Network for Unaccompanied Minors) greeted us most cordially and willingly helped in what we needed. It was very nice and touching to meet in person colleagues with whom we have been working closely, but from distance, for months or years. I was impressed by the team’s strong bond: people of different ages and origins, many refugees themselves, others locals from the island of Chios, some from Athens… all polite, smiling and tireless! That night, many colleagues had to stay in VIAL until 2 am, in order to complete all the registrations of people who had just arrived from the Turkish coast: Friday alone, 160 people arrived in the island. As for our lawyers, who provide free legal support to asylum seekers, the large number of cases seems to be verging their limits. But it is not the workload and pressure they worry about: it is the multiple rejections that have begun to take epidemic dimensions…

At first chance, we visited METAdrasi’s accommodation facility for unaccompanied minors: children and staff of the facility welcomed us with smiles and homemade treats and made sure we felt at home. We had already met three of the facility’s children, originating from Syria, as they willingly helped us during both days of the distribution. Polyxeni, member of METAdrasi’s Guardianship Network for Unaccompanied Minors in Chios, told us that these children introduce themselves to the locals as Giorgos, Giannis and Nikos. Playful mood or indication of a deep need for integration?, I wondered. A three year-old tot learned in no time to use our cameras and his face glowed each time he would show us the shots he had taken with us. An eight year-old had prepared on his own rolled Arab bread, in order to say farewell to a child that would depart for Athens the following day. I was also impressed by the facility’s interpreter in Arabic: when I asked her what she would be doing on Saturday that she had the day off, she told me: “I will come back here, to play with the kids!”

We said goodbye to our team in Chios hoping to see them again soon and knowing that there are 14 more teams of METAdrasi throughout Greece, equally bound and dynamic, we would like to meet in person…”

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