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Entries in refugee (3)

Tuesday
Feb162016

Carry The Future ~ It Matters to this One

Ferry after ferry arrives, and there to meet the refugees are volunteers from all over the world.

We represent Carry The Future. And we are ready to help in the way we have chosen.

Photo by Lulu Potts

Other volunteers stand ready with food and fresh drinks. This is Project Soup-Port.

These men speak Arabic and Greek. They are friends. They volunteer together, throwing on the bright green vests when they are at the port so we can send people to them in need of translators.

This is Debbie. She showed up at the port looking to volunteer. She has been an unofficial part of our team for much of the trip. Here Mary demonstrates how we fit a baby carrier.

Below I give you Carry The Future - Team Athens. These are young, local Greek volunteers who live in Athens and volunteer in between work and school. Thank you, friends!

This is Jeff. I realized he was American and started chatting with him as we waited for the ferry to arrive. "I babywore my boys," he nodded seeing the inherent logic in giving babycarriers to refugees.

"Oh, really?" I asked. "Then grab some carriers and lets go!" He jumped right in and held extra carriers in his arms as we fitted families. He took pictures too. Thanks, Jeff!

Sometimes I step back and look at all the people and wonder if we'll ever be able to help all those in need.

The answer is we can't.

But then I think of the Starfish Parable. You know, the one where an old man approaches a young girl on a beach who is throwing starfish back into the sea before they suffocate.

The old man looks incredulously at the millions of starfish and says, "this doesn't matter. You'll never be able to save them all."

Photo by Lulu Potts

And the little girl picks up another starfish, flings it back into the water, and says, "it mattered to that one."

Photo by Lulu Potts

And this one.

It mattered to them.

It mattered to her and her two week old baby.

It mattered here.

For baby Michael, it mattered. (And a baby Michael update here!)

Photos by Lulu Potts

It mattered to them.

Photo by Lulu Potts

And them.

Photo by Lulu Potts

And to so many others.

Photo by Lulu Potts

Sometimes waiting for the next boat we'd talk about the people that we had only minutes to meet, to touch, to help, and we'd wonder about their lives and where they'll go and if they'll be okay. 

Photo by Lulu Potts

And Margaret Mead reminds me, "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed it is the only thing that ever has."

Thank you Carry The Future - Team Four for helping me be part of a group of people that is changing the world, one small act at a time. 

Wednesday
Feb102016

Carry The Future trip: Days 1-3

I met with two other members of our eight person team at LAX on Monday afternoon. There to meet us was Cristal Munoz-Logothetis, the founder of Carry The Future (CTF). You can learn more about how she conceived of the idea of babycarriers for refugees and how quickly CTF became an international volunteer organization here

The long flight from LA to Zurich was deliciously empty. Almost every person in the plane had their own row, or only one neighbor a few seats from them. It was an evening flight. The extra space, my TRTL pillow, and a sleep mask, meant I was actually able to sleep for a few hours of the 11 hour flight. 

We had a five hour layover in Zurich. We had flown through the night into day 2 of the trip and arrived in Zurich around 4pm their time. My friends Marco and René live in a little town just outside of Zurich called Winterthur. I hadn't seen them in 14 years. They were awesome enough to pick us up at the flughafen and entertain us for a bit before the flight to Athens. 

This is Courtney and Mary, fellow team members and awesome women. I loved that they were adventurous enough to go through customs in Zurich and willing to meet my friends in a new country based on just my word alone. I knew that Marco and René would not disappoint! 

They are just as handsome and funny as I remember them.

Us, in Lucerne, Switzerland, 2002.

Upon arrival we were treated to tapas and prosecco and then cappuccino, Swiss chocolate, and a rhubarb pie. 

Best layover of my life. Hands down.

Marco took us on a walk around his new neighborhood in Winterthur, including taking us into some revitalized industrial buildings. This library used to be a giant factory.

He has always had a knack for style, architecture, and good photo ops. These were sound chairs in the library.

When we meet, we try to do a celebratory air jump. This was us in front of the Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris, 2002.

And here's the jump we managed to film in Wintherthur, February 2016.

Us, in Lucerne, Switerland, 2002.

And together again, although so briefly, in February 2016. Thank you Marco and René for your generosity and hospitality. Let's not wait another 14 years to see each other again, eh?

We got back to business with the flight to Athens. At this point we connected with a fourth team member, Heather, and we all flew the evening flight to Greece. When we landed in Greece we were the last ones in the airport.

There was four of us and 700lbs of baby carriers.

Pro tip for anyone reading this who plans to go on a future distribution trip with CTF: show up in Athens with Euros, including coins. Our credit cards wouldn't work in the Smart Cart machines. Also, find the guy who can grab the really, really, REALLY big luggage cart to help you move the carriers through customs and out to the waiting Opa! taxi. He charges a fee per bag. Bring Euros! (Don't wait to get them in the airport at Athens. None of the ATMs worked.)

Heather, me, Courtney, and Mary

After finally connecting with the really-big-cart-guy, we made it to our awaiting taxi which chugged along slowly under the weight of all those glorious carriers and 45 minutes after that we made it to our hotel. Of course all 700lbs of carriers needed to be stored. Some bags fit in the hotel's luggage room but most had to be hauled into the teeny-tiny European elevators and then dragged to our various rooms.

It was finally around 5:00am local time when I managed to get some sleep.  We had a morning meeting scheduled at 9:00am. Sleep is overrated. Coffee is your friend. 

Bright and early at the beginning of day three, 7 of the 8 of us finally got to meet. This is Leah, Heather, Amy, Courtney, Mary, and me. Lulu is taking our picture. Our 8th member, Jennifer, had been delayed getting out of Boston thanks to a snow storm.

After some quick how-do-you-do's and breakfast, we headed out to Port Piraeus, the port of Athens. 

Each of us took turns lugging the bags the two and a half miles to the dock where the first ferry with refugees would arrive that day.

The weather was glorious. It felt good to be around boats.

We waited in the terminal and admired some of the artwork drawn by refugee children in transit. Soon, the boat approached. 

See that ramp that is lowering? 1,000 refugees were about to deboard. 

This is the last photo I took because I started fitting carriers as soon as families with children were within reach.

Image by Lulu Potts

It was a flurry of activity for the entire time we had access to refugees with small children. For about an hour we worked non-stop fitting the right carrier to the right-size/age of each child.

Because I couldn't stop to take photos, the next picture in my camera is this. 

We were just one of many volunteer groups present. This food was provided by a grassroots organization called Projekt Soup-Port (soup-port...support, get it?) 

I highly suggest you check out their Facebook page. It is filled with cheery photos of young people feeding the hungry. 

Our awesome team photographer, Lulu, was able to document day three and all the baby carrier fittings we did.

She'll be posting her photos soon, and I promise to update and show you the work we are doing. I have these three as proof that I worked my ass off on day three. Never been happier to work so hard.

Photo by Lulu Potts

Photo by Lulu Potts

That evening we reconvened at the hotel and finally got to meet our eighth team member, Jennifer. 

Dinner didn't end our day though. After that bit of down time we had a late-night pow wow to de-brief and practice different carries for mei tais and the soft structured carriers we work with.

I'm very tired. This post is probably not that eloquent but I hope the photos have been able to show you the first three days (two of which were travel just to get here.) 

Lulu's video will give you an idea of what we do when the ferries arrive. One of our team members, Heather, shared these words that I believe coincide beautifully with the video.

"My favorite professor says, we influence the small circle that we can. Then small individual acts of justice and love fall like drops of rain to the earth and all together they become a flowing river that waters the earth with love...small individual acts of justice and love...one drop of rain at a time.

View her video here.

Thanks to all my friends and family for helping me Carry The Future.  

Wednesday
Jan202016

Why I'm Helping Carry The Future

Next month I'm helping Carry The Future distribute new, or gently-used, baby carriers to refugees arriving in Greece.  I'm fundraising to try to cover the cost of airfare from San Diego to Los Angeles (where I'll meet the rest of my team and pick up hundreds of pounds of baby carriers in lieu of luggage) and then from LAX we'll fly to Athens.

Right now I'm $300 from reaching my goal. Can you help? https://www.youcaring.com/charlotte-kaufman-503280 Goal reached!!!! Thank you!! Please see post update at bottom for more ways you can help!

If you've followed my blog for any length of time, you'll know how important babywearing is to me. Click on the tag 'babywearing' and you'll find it highlighted through five year's worth of my posts.

When I found out about Carry The Future (CTF), and their very direct, and simple goal - of getting baby carriers to parents who were about to walk thousands of miles with their children in arms, I knew I'd found an organization that spoke to me.

If you are unaware of the path refugees take once they reach Greece, the map below will give you a good idea.

(Note that even on the image itself it states that this is not a precise route, and the route frequently changes with the machinations of inter and intra-country political and social wrangling in response to the crisis.)

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This map comes from a Buzzfeed article that walks you through the path that refugees take on their way to safe harbor. You can read it here:

Here is the Long Route Many Refugees Take to Travel from Syria to Germany

In advance of my trip I have been collecting baby carriers from my local community and connecting with other Carry The Future volunteers who are collecting as well.

With local volunteer, Francesca, who donated over 80 pairs of socks & hats and 10 baby carriers.

I've collected 50 carriers so far. More to come!

I'm fundraising to cover the cost of my airfare because I'm not made of money. I very much want to go and help, but I need help to do it. 

In the past week while I've asked for help, I've received incredibly positive feedback. 95% of the time people have made me think of Margaret Mead:

But the other 5% - not so much.

While it is tempting to ignore the small amount of people who don't support helping others in need, I feel like their very public comments should be addressed very publicly. 

Let's start with Lawrence Collins from this post.

What makes you think the borders north will be open for them? You might try reading European publications and see the unrest over there. I highly doubt another million will make it to Europe without civil war/revolution breaking out.

It's always funny when someone tells me to read. What is this new-fangled thing you talk of - reading? Lawrence, I suggest you stop reading whatever paranoid non-news sites you get your "information" from and start taking a bit of your own advice. 

You can start with this article from three days ago entitled An Even Greater Flood of Refugees is Building on Greek Island of Lesbos. Feel free also, Lawrence, to follow Twitter accounts like Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS) and Médecins Sans Frontiers - Sea for real numbers and up-to-the-minute accounts of the current crisis.

The flow of migrants is NOT decreasing.

Next up! Nico Owlman comes in swinging with this comment:

Lots of organizations making money of the gullible. Baby carriers? Wtf? You should have a look how these people suffer. They're way beyond baby carriers. Keep out of it... The aid organizations (there are sooo many) are fighting for more and more money. Money which the needy will never see a penny of.:

Besides missing a heart, Nico also suffers from faulty logic. You know, the ole' 'these-people-have-experienced-so-many-shitty-things-that-it-is-pointless-to-try-to-do-one-thing-to-help'-kind. 

Right Nico, because you know what this woman definitely could NOT use right now? A babycarrier...

Image from Reuters.com: A Migrant's Winter Walk. Source: http://goo.gl/ointK2

This guy either...

Image from Reuters.com: A Migrant's Winter Walk. Source: http://goo.gl/ointK2

What about here?

Nah.

Image from Reuters.com: A Migrant's Winter Walk. Source: http://goo.gl/ointK2

Here? Heck no. That lady looks positively invigorated. You think she'd like a baby carrier right now?

YOU CRAY CRAY.

Image from Reuters.com: A Migrant's Winter Walk. Source: http://goo.gl/ointK2

Okay, okay. How about at night?

No, you're right. Babycarriers would be so unhelpful.

Image from Reuters.com: A Migrant's Winter Walk. Source: http://goo.gl/ointK2

Nico's paternalistic 'keep out of it' is very heartwarming, isn't it? You know what, Nico. You stay home comfy and cozy, okay big guy?

There are braver people who can do the hard work. 

A volunteer carries a child ashore on Lesbos.

As for his final comment, 'money that the needy will never see a penny of,' I'll nod to a kernel of truth here, but he has committed the fallacy of reductio ad absurdum. It is absurd to make a sweeping statement that money donated to charity will never be seen by those in need.

One should, however, be educated on the charities you donate to. You can find out what percentage of your money is actually given to the cause you care about by using an awesome tool called Google.

In the case of Carry The Future, volunteers collect and donate baby carriers using their own money or donations. While I am asking for help in the cost of my airfare to Greece, I will be paying for food, supplies, travel expenses, and childcare, while also losing wages while I volunteer.

Photo: Canadian physician Dr. Simon Bryant, of Doctors Without Borders, tends to a patient during a rescue of more than 450 people from a wooden migrant boat in distress on the Mediterranean Sea. Credit: Gabriele François Casini / MSF

Zelda Graham swoops in with this one:

Worthy cause but honesty aren't there any people with hearts left in Europe to do distribute carriers that you have to fly from US ?

Zelda has tried to hide her 'let somebody else do it' message by half-heartedly utilizing the phrase 'worthy cause.' Zelda, you aren't fooling anybody.

I thought about Googling the long list of European-aid organizations on the ground in Greece for her, but I got lazy and will just keep propping up her bubble with sarcasm instead.

No, there are no people with hearts left in Europe, (nor apparently where Zelda lives either).

A mother and child rescued at sea are comforted by the MSF team in Lampedusa, Italy. Photo: Mattia Insolera.

A volunteer carries a young boy after a boat with refugees and migrants sank while crossing the Aegean sea from Turkey to the Greek island of Lesbos, on Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2015. The condition of the child is not known. The Greek coast guard said it rescued 242 refugees or economic migrants off the eastern island of Lesbos Wednesday after the wooden boat they traveled in capsized, leaving at least three dead on a day when another 8 people drowned trying to reach Greece. (AP Photo/Santi Palacios) (The Associated Press). Link: http://goo.gl/1Le9py

Zelda wasn't done yet. She needed to throw in some mommy-shaming while she was at it:

And switching it around I m sure you can find tons of volunteering options closer to home and your children.

Here we have the reverse of N.I.M.B.Y-ism (not-in-my-backyard.) What shall we call it? "I'll only help if it is right-in-my-backyard." Oooh, R.I.M.B.Y-ism.

You heard it here first! 

Also good news, Zelda! My children have a father. He actually knows how to take care of kids and stuff.

Can you really say that I should stay close to home because this child is not as important as my own?

A Syrian refugee from Aleppo holds his one month old daughter moments after arriving on a dinghy on the Greek island of Lesbos, September 3, 2015. Credit: Photo by Dimitris Michalakis/Reuters.

Next up is Michelle with one that leaves me speechless:

I don't completely trust the motivations behind this kind of 'altruism'.

Again. I've got zero witty response to a statement like this. I'll let photos do the talking and state how grateful I am to people for their altruism in times of crisis.

That baby looks mighty suspicious of their altruism.

Image via Carry The Future: https://goo.gl/gOq9S6

Another pained recipient of altruism, am I right???!!

Image via Carry The Future: https://goo.gl/3K8bhc

Lastly, we have Bill:

We shouldn't interfere with their culture. If I am not mistaken the Syrian people have always carried babies with scarves...

This one falls under the logical fallacy called Appeal to Antiquity. Syrians traditionally have used scarves to wear their babies, not that it matters. Bill, I gotta tell you something, there is a LOT interfering with the Syrian culture right now.

Know what I mean?

A street in Homs, Syria, in 2011 (above) and 2014 (below). Image source: http://goo.gl/DI0RKf

So far, Carry the Future volunteers on the ground in Athens haven't met a single Syrian who has turned down a babycarrier in lieu of a traditional scarf.

Not.a.one.

Just yesterday a CTF volunteer posted on her Facebook page about this gentleman who was babywearing a child with a scarf. He had to keep his hands behind his back as he walked to keep the child secure. The smile of relief on his face was palpable when he accepted the free carrier.

Take your antiquity and keep it on the dusty shelves at your place, Bill.

Wearing child in scarf on left, his arms arched back for support. Wearing child in baby carrier on right. Child is secure. The man is very happy. Image via Ann-Marie Granger Speirs, https://goo.gl/lznBCE

Lastly, there was this comment that I wanted to share because it is a genuine concern/question and one that I can answer: 

Just a concern: why not have someone already there hand out the baby carriers? You could buy quite a few more carriers with the savings.

People in Lesbos and Athens already are there and handing out carriers, as well as doing all kinds of other volunteer work. CTF has a permanent Athens team working as often as they can (remember they too are volunteers). I encourage you to follow CTF on Facebook or Twitter to see what the teams are doing to make a difference. 

CTF volunteers arrive at the airport with luggage crammed full of baby carriers. Image: https://goo.gl/bTl57sAdditionally, Carry the Future, and many other aide organizations, have found that shipping donated supplies is expensive and problematic, with shipments getting lost or stuck in customs. Right now, volunteers who can fly over and bring the supplies as luggage are able to get a lot of supplies over quickly. There are thousands of refugees streaming into Europe each day. The people of Lesbos, surrounding islands, and Athens, can only do so much.

How Can You Help?

I'm currently $300 away from reaching my goal of airfare to Greece to volunteer in Athens. Can you help me get there?  Goal reached!!!! Thank you!! Please see post update at bottom for more ways you can help!

You can also donate directly to Carry The Future, or their sister organization Operation Refugee Child

PRI recently wrote an article highlighting groups you may not yet have heard of that are doing important work to help Syrian refugees.

If they are lucky, refugees will eventually make it to safe countries. Look into local groups that are helping refugees to settle in your city. Organizations like Jewish Family Services, Catholic Charities and the International Rescue Committee are helping refugees in cities all across America.

Thanks for your help. #CarryTheFuture #RefugeesWelcome #SafePassage

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