Week 1 on Lesvos: Tragedy & Hope

I have been on Lesvos only a few days and already I am blown away by the scale of the human need and the determined compassion of the volunteers who have gathered from all corners of the Earth to be here to meet that need. Morgan from Arizona, on her second spell of coordinating teams to meet the boats as they land on the beaches in desperate conditions. Flocks of young people from across Europe working with Starfish to meet the boats, assist the wet, weary refugees with landing, warm clothes, and information as they move onward to the transit camps on the island. The Norwegians manning the towers scanning the horizon towards Turkey and directing teams to where the boats are headed. Cookie, a whirlwind of energy, overseeing the repair and refurbishment of a shuttered hotel -the Hope Centre – to be used as a warming center for people just off the boats.

Only this week the importance of the Hope Centre project was magnified by the tragic deaths of 2 refugees newly off the boats -one a young woman my age, another a young boy, no more than 4 or 5 years old. They arrived alive on the shores of Greece after their harrowing journey on overloaded boats, barely more than rubber dinghies, soaked through by the frigid waters of the Aegean Sea. It is winter here and thus freezing, snow in the mountains. Hypothermia is a constant risk. Despite the efforts of rescue teams to save them, both the woman and boy succombed to the cold.

Disheartening for everyone on the island, as the news travelled lightning fast among the volunteers and locals.

I have thrown in with the Hope Centre project, and the bad news only strengthens my resolve that I am where I need to be. Located right up from the beach, this shuttered hotel is being repaired and refurbished to be used as a temporary way point for refugees fresh off the boats. Here they can walk up from the beach to a warm, dry place, get changed into dry clothes, receive medical evaluation, make food, have a hot drink, rest with their families, and prepare for the next step in their journey as they head to Mytilini to register and await a ferry onwards.

For the last 3 days I have scrapped off rust, painted walls, cleaned rooms, sanded and stained newly constructed shelves….I am only one of many determined to see this place open and ready, a resource of warmth and hospitality.

I am not currently assisting the rescues on the beaches or working at the refugee camps. I have met many volunteers who are. We are all drops in the ocean, many becoming one in purpose to help save as many lives as possible. All these tasks, large or small, form a chain of love for these people desperately seeking a safe harbor.

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About chronictraveler

Chronic Traveler starts as a dream, one that I thought I had lost, but that has slowly changed into a mission to realize and live that dream every day. In December 2007 I became seriously ill and the doctors did not know what was causing my illness. I had to stop teaching as my life tumbled into a never-ending nightmare of doctors, hospitals and tests. Finally, in May 2008 I was diagnosed with a chronic condition - fibromyalgia. I was only 26 years old at the time. I have had to give up teaching, and now work part-time at a performing arts center as I learn how to manage my condition and improve my quality of life. What helped me through the months of uncertainty and sickness, and continues to inspire me, was a new focus on what truly mattered to me: family, friends, gardening, the arts, and especially travel. I have always fed my soul by traveling, ever since I first stepped off the plane at age 16 in Kathmandu, Nepal to help with an orphanage's building project. Meeting new people and experiencing how they live and how they view the world infuses my life with a richness I was so afraid I would lose when the doctor first said, "You have fibromyalgia". This blog is my story, as I begin to forge a new path. I am embracing my life as it is, with the fibromyalgia pain and fatigue, and learning to do what I love regardless. It may mean I have to go slower and take more naps or breaks! But I am determined to learn how to travel and experience the world, and hopefully what I learn will help others like me who believe their medical condition stands in the way of their travel dreams.
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