We slowly push our carts over the terrain and manoeuvre through the Isoboxes. It starts to sink in that in these boxes, no bigger than a shipping container, families live with up to five kids. The carts we are pushing are filled with food. Each morning food is handed out to these families living here. Every family is handed a banana per family member, two loaves of bread, fresh vegetables and a few cheese spreads. Pregnant women or women who are breastfeeding are handed an extra 10 almonds.
Each year we organise a company outing where we focus on team building and development. In 2018 we did not focus on our own development but we turned our attention to the refugee crisis in Lesbos. Imagine packing all your belongings and leaving your home country in order to be stranded in a place that you cannot leave. Thousands of refugees in Lesbos are waiting until they are allowed to continue their journey. They have no access to basic care, something that we take for granted back home. There is also not a lot to participate in, this is why processing traumas takes a lot longer. Making yourself look good, refreshing yourself and having contact with others helps refugees feel human again. A feeling that a lot of refugees have lost coming here. This is why Maak, in collaboration with Barber Society and Wiewathaar, has decided to offer Because We Carry in Lesbos our help and skills to make a difference for the refugees and de organisation that helps them.
After weeks of preparation we arrived in Lesbos. It was time for us to start. One part of the team started sanding down two shipping containers and the other part of the team picked up paint and other necessities. In three days time, we sanded and painted the containers twice. Residents who were painters in their daily lives showed us how. This turned it into a real team effort. In the end, the goal was to start up a beauty salon and a barbershop with the help of experts from the beauty industry. We installed the electricity, provided the entire furnishing and let experts teach courses to help train residents and offer them a fresh start. A huge undertaking but it is great to see what a lovely team we have. Everyone is filled with enthusiasm and really wants to create something special.
When we head back in the evening you notice that everyone is starting to unload. You experience so many different emotions, this is not something you experience in your daily life. We laugh and talk a lot, we have a drink together which makes us laugh even more because after a hard day’s work one drink can do a lot for you. Everyone was exhausted in the evenings and went to bed early so we could give it our all the next day.
‘’Of course we know why these children are stuck here and what is going on in the world, but they do not realise that because they are too young.’’ Esther, project manager at Maak, says: ’’I saw a group of grown men in tears because they were so grateful with the barbershop, it was beautiful to see”. The Clowns without borders have made the biggest impression on Jacqueline: ‘’All the children were called together and had to sit in a circle. A shy boy stands up and walks towards the centre of the circle. ‘My name is Mustafa’, says the boy. All the children started cheering and chanting ‘Hey Mustafa’. The boy was glowing of joy. It does not matter what country you are from, what language you speak or what horrible experiences you went through. For a moment, the children forget everything around them and are having so much fun’’.
‘’The moment a little girl tried to explain the sound of airstrikes with her hands and that that was the reason she had to leave touched me deeply.’’
On Kara Tepe life is relatively good, due to the constant refugee aid. However, on Moria there is a totally different situation. Each week more people arrive than leave the island. This is situation that touched us deeply. In moments like these, you realise how lucky we are to be living the life that we are living. We at Maak are very lucky to have such a loving team filled with people who are not afraid to show their emotions or to work hard towards such a wonderful goal. Justin says: ‘’It’s wonderful to see that in three days-time we could really have an impact on lives of these people. These people have been given a new starting point in life. Something we are really proud of!”.