The Urban Wanderer

Crossing Borders ~ Bridging Cultures ~ Traveling Responsibly

Volunteering in Ritsona ~ camp life so far

IMG_3569This post was originally from September 26, 2019

The last few days have been productive as we have been able to go into camp to work. There are a few NGO’s working in the camp. There is  IOM (International Organization for Migration) which is part of the UN and they are the big bosses – they make all the big decisions. And then there is I Am You – they provide English classes to kids and adults as well as giving residents glasses if they need them. Lighthouse Relief deals with children and teens. Their programs are geared toward protecting children ffrom physical harm and psycho-social distress through extracurricular activities. And Cross Cultural Solutions which is who I’m volunteering with. CCS has 3 main services. The laundry – where residents are given appointments so they can drop off their laundry at certain times and we are there to do it for them. The second service is the Female Friendly Space which I talked about in my last post. And 3rd is the warehouse/shop – this is where items are brought in and distributed.

For the last few days Lucy and I have been assigned to the shop where basically we are at a Goodwill/Oxfam and have to sort through all the incoming clothing donations and stock the ‘store’. I use the word store loosely because it’s a space for residents to come get clothing. It’s separated into sections for men, women and children. In each section are bins of clothes. Organizing the shop is complete chaos. Nobody leaves things where they found them and so it’s really difficult to see what category needs restocking. And then you go back to look for more items in that category (like boys jumpers for example) and we have nothing in the back.

It’s hard too because so many of the items donated are for hootches. I’m sorry but no Muslim woman is going to wear a crop top and mini skirt. Or then you have the prom dresses and high heels. There are so many items that just aren’t useful. Water wings? Come on!!!!

The items that can’t be placed out front and have to be specially requested are shoes. Some people don’t have any shoes so we can’t have them out in the shop. Instead they are handed out in special circumstances.

What we also really need is underwear and leggings. There are a few pairs of used knickers I have sorted through but it’s really too bad that there can’t be more new packages to hand out. Leggings are also in high demand because the women like wearing them under their abayas.

The shop is also operated by appointment. Families are given a scheduled appointment to come to the shop and once a month they are allowed in. They can take as much as they need (in moderation) but it has to be monitored to some degree because then you have residents taking what they don’t need and selling it on the side for profit. I have heard my share of arguments between residents if one person gets something of desire and the other one wants it. Or I have heard our volunteer resident arguing with the ladies saying ‘you don’t have a baby, you can’t take these baby clothes’.

Tensions are high in the camp anyway because over the last month they’ve had an influx of over 200 refugees. Not only that, they are actually clearing the land next to the camp to build more space for more caravans and more incoming refugees.

This morning we couldn’t go into camp at our regular time because there was a police raid and they were looking for drugs. Apparently there was more hostility towards the doctors on site because they would not give out medication without the person taking it in front of them. People want to stash the drugs and then sell them.  Drugs obviously lead to more violence so I know there has been talk about moving the ‘sketchy’ residents to another camp.

Later in the day Lucy and I went to the Female Friendly Space and tried to fix the fence surrounding it. It’s a wire gated fence but there has been tarp around it so that the men can’t see in. Unfortunately the tarp has been stolen so Lucy and I were weaving prickly branches in between the wires so that it is more difficult to see in. Maybe my next venture with The Urban Gypsy will involve basket weaving.


This is Xenia – hard at work doing laundry for the residents
Once the laundry is washed it is placed outside for pick up and then each resident is responsible for hanging their laundry to dry.
Lucy (Sally) and Maria in the warehouse sorting clothing donations
perhaps a prom dress isn’t the best item to donate overseas???!!!!


Lucy and I working hard at weaving prickly branches through the wire fence so men can’t see into the Female Friendly Space

I have to tell you about Mrs Fortini. She is the lady who comes to our apartment and cooks and cleans. She doesn’t speak a lick of English so Google Translate has been our friend. She has a heart of gold and is so kind. This evening she picked us up to go for a walk. Instead we showed up at her daughter’s door and had an impromptu visit. She served us cherry juice and then a shot of traditional liquor from the island of Chios called Mastiha. Next we went for a walk and had a second dinner and wine with them. They are absolutely lovely and it is just so amazing to meet such wonderful souls.

The AMAZING Mrs. Fortini and her lovely daughter Konstantina


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