“I don’t like to give speeches” pronounced Stavros Mirogiannis, Kara Tepe camp manager and all around superman before launching into a glorious speech about how my work from my previous time here is imprinted on the camp and giving me a thoroughly warm welcome back to a place that is very special to me.
I always knew I would get a warm welcome upon my return to Kara Tepe camp but I couldn’t believe the amount of people who are still here, working with the same passion and energy that inspired me one year ago.
So what has changed in Kara Tepe? Everything. The facilities have improved immensely, what was once a rocky, dirt road is now a smooth tarmac surface. What were flimsy (yet very effective), plastic shelters are now being replaced with solid ISOBOXs. What was an unused driving school facility is now a football pitch, a community garden and unbelievably, a cinema!
The days of 2,000 people jostling with each other along the roads of Kara Tepe in the hope of getting a blanket to stand a chance of fighting off the cold for another night are gone, nobody sleeps outside any more. The days of worrying if everyone was going to make it through the night without succumbing to the effects of the winter weather are mercifully over. We don’t have to try in vein to comfort those who have lost family members on the perilous crossing any more. We no longer sit at the castle with binoculars waiting and hoping the next boat we spot makes it to the shore.
Sounds great right? Absolutely! But that’s not to say the problems are over and that life is perfect for the residents of Kara Tepe. When the gates of Europe were open to our residents it would be an exceptional case if we saw the same person or family in camp for more than one week before they moved on to mainland Europe. Today, some residents have been here for 11 months, unable to work and forced to live on handouts for which they desperately want to break free from.
The spotlight has moved away from Lesvos now. Angelina Jolie won’t return my calls and Ban Ki-moon keeps returning my emails with an out of office message. From a British (me) and American (my girlfriend) perspective our home countries are moving to a more hostile position on refugees. This combined with the considerable expense of traveling to Lesvos, rent and living costs, demands a huge personal commitment from all the volunteers on this island. One that they continue to relish, and perform with amazing positivity and energy. That much has not changed at all.
You can help us to continue our work in Kara Tepe camp by donating using this link