Mountains of pain – and joy

I just received a facebook post from an extraordinary woman who lives near me, who has been selling cloth shoes for babies and young children in her etsy shop. She found that refugees living in camps on the Greek Island of Lesvos have vast quantities of deflated rafts and unusable life preservers, and that the children needed footwear.
She heard that it can get quite “mucky” in the camps, so she added motorcycle inner tube soling so the soles and stitched the inner tube up the shoes a few inches, creating “muck shoes”. (She says that they have now become the best sellers in her shop). She and volunteers made many pairs of muck shoes for the children, then her family (five-year-old twin daughters, 7-year-old daughter, and husband) decided to go there, deliver shoes, bring a stitching machine (which I don’t think worked) and help the refugees make footwear to wear and perhaps to sell. They left on July 4, and are still there.
I did my best to supplement her with sandal patterns and children shoe patterns in other styles, but I am gathering from posts on her facebook page that it became apparent that other items might be best to make from the materials at hand. I’m gathering that one of the best items she helped people make were soccer balls! The raft material was cut into soccer-ball components and were stitched (I’m not sure if this was done by hand or by machine), then stuffed with the layers of plastic foam from inside the life preservers. They are beautiful, and will never deflate – from what I hear about the popularity of soccer world-wide, these balls will be in demand!
Somehow Andrea found a functioning sewing machine, and once she got it running, the lines of people bringing items that needed to be repaired or re-made were stretched out the door of her tent all day.
You would think we in the USA could drop one less bomb over somewhere in the Middle East and use the savings to buy a few more sewing machines for these refugee camps.

She has found that mountains of donated clothing cannot be worn because the sleeves need to be long for Muslim women and it was hard to find something that fit. Andrea began teaching the refugees to make cotton dresses for the little girls, you can imagine how popular they are. Clothes were cut up and stitched to add to the length of the sleeves for the women.
Then she started helping the refugees cut the t-shirts into long lengths of “yarn”, must have made some big “crochet hooks” and got people crocheting bags, little rugs, and other items that could be made from crocheted t-shirts. I sent her a long list of projects that can be made from this yarn, can you imagine people in camps sitting around crocheting useful items from t-shirt yarn – everything from sleeping mats to poufs to sit upon?!
Following is the latest post from Andrea – if you’d like to read all of her posts, her facebook page is: https://www.facebook.com/Bula-Jeans-Boutique-183782958307742/

Friends, this is a very difficult post, so please don’t read further if you are very sensitive. This afternoon has left me feeling totally unqualified to be doing this work. My little workshop tent has been flooded with tears from me and some of my new refugee friends. Since 4 o’clock this morning, the Greek riot police has been raiding the Moria refugee camp and neighbouring community centres, making sweeping and arbitrary arrests of migrants whose asylum cases have been rejected on appeal. 60 people have been detained pending “immediate deportation”. The general climate in Mytilini is one of terror and uncertainty.

Also, I need to tell you more about the young man I introduced you to the other day. Remember the one who carried the fabric from his mother across 8 countries until he reached safety in Lesvos? Well, he has come back here every day to learn new skills and we have bonded over needles and thread. Today he felt comfortable enough to share more of his incredible story, and it cut me to the core. He has asked me to share it with you in hopes someone can help him.

Gabrielle is a member of a certain ethnic group from the country of Congo. This group is a minority and have been subjected to ethnic cleansing for many years. One night this spring my friend went to the toilet around 9 at night. As is common in Congo, the bathroom was separate from the house many yards away. He heard a noise and peeked out from behind the curtain. He saw men with machetes and machine guns enter his home and pull out his sleeping family members. While crouched down inside the bathroom he witnessed his sister and mother being raped and then killed, he also saw his father and brother violently killed. After sitting in shock on the bathroom floor for some time after the men left, he gathered up the surviving family members (his niece aged 3, his nephew aged 9, and Gabrielle’s own daughter age 4), then ran to town to get his other sister who was working at the family’s shop at the time. The 5 of them set off on their journey to safety. Their goal was to reach Europe. There was some chaos crossing the border into Burundi and Gabriel was separated from his sister and the children. He has no idea how to find them, but to do so would begin the healing of his shattered heart. He is suffering from severe guilt, has flashbacks, and feels completely alone in the world. If any of you know someone who could help begin the process to reunite this family, please message me privately. I have other specific details that could help in the search too.

I am sorry I have to pass a along such a horrific story to you. It is not an easy one to hear. I hope I can get back to spreading more smiles tomorrow
– I’m afraid I wasn’t very successful with that today.

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