Volunteering to help refugees

It’s easy to “like” articles on Facebook bemoaning the numerous policies enacted by an administration I cannot abide. A wave of nationalism that has arisen in countries on both sides of the Atlantic has left the most vulnerable population — refugees fleeing famine, war, and persecution — in a state of perpetual homelessness. While some lucky few get resettled, many others spend months or years living in camps. Many of them are living here in Athens. So I asked myself, what can I do to help? I’ve been regularly putting the kids’ old clothes in the donation bins at the Embassy and Liam’s school. But it didn’t feel like I was doing enough. So when an email from the Embassy went by asking for volunteers, I decided to act.

Once a month, volunteers from the US Embassy work at the Caritas Soup Kitchen, a Catholic charity that supports refugees all over Greece. They provide a hot meal for about 150 refugees in Athens every day. The embassy provided us transportation there and back, and each volunteer worked at a station in the kitchen for a couple of hours. I was on dish duty with a couple of others from the Embassy. As the dining room filled, we washed, rinsed, and dried dishes to be stacked and reused. We had a great time chatting, and we kept very busy at our tasks. People of all ages came to eat, and we had a steady stream of diners for two straight hours. I came home exhausted, but also satisfied that perhaps I’d done a small part to offset the (hopefully temporary) refugee ban from my own country.

Eager to do more, I’m also arranging to volunteer once a week to do activities with refugee children. This program is also run by Caritas, and arranged by the Embassy. It’s brand new, so I’m not exactly sure what to expect. Once I fill out some paperwork, they should be able to get me more information on what age children I’ll be working with, and what sorts of activities they’re looking for me to do. If anyone has any low-budget kids crafting ideas and games for groups, please send them my way! I will surely be scouring Pinterest in the coming weeks.

I’m also trying to get Liam in on the charitable giving. We talk a lot about the refugee crisis, and I suggested perhaps he should set aside some of his allowance every month to contribute. One of my friends volunteers at a medical clinic at one of the camps, and she said they’re always looking for diapers and formula. If all goes to plan, I’ll be taking Liam to Jumbo with the money from his “charity” bin to pick out diapers for little refugee babies. He seemed to like the idea…though he only agreed to part with 50 cents this week. But every little bit counts!

 

 

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