Karian and Box volunteer in Lesvos: One spoon, one meal
This is Rory’s story.
A huge amount of our time on Lesvos was spent distributing lifelines to refugees and migrants: clothes, bedding, and shoes were all in desperately short supply – worn out or destroyed during the sea crossing.
In each shift you will come across hundreds, maybe thousands, of people and each of these encounters represents a dilemma: what can we afford to give? When we don’t know how many mouths we have to feed, how do we decide who gets to eat? When we don’t know how many more migrants and refugees will arrive overnight, how do we decide how much clothing we should give out?
It’s an impossible balance to strike.
Distributing food in the Moria camp, the queues of hungry people extended out of sight. Hundreds of people would queue whilst their tired families slept in tents or on the ground nearby. On paper the job was simple – give everyone a spoon for each portion they are to receive. These small plastic spoons were, quite literally, a meal ticket.
As one person left the queue with food, another would join. Meanwhile the portions of food would only diminish. As we grew more concerned over the supply of food, we were told to distribute no more than four portions so that everyone is able to eat. The Afghani man next in the queue raises six fingers to indicate how many portions he needs and gestures to me that he has small children. We can only give four portions. A Syrian man shakes my hand and asks me where I’m from, I tell him and he says that he needs 8 portions for his family, but we can only give four portions.
As the line gradually subsides, we see that there are still plenty of meals left over. On this occasion we have been slightly too cautious. I’m told that the previous week too many meals were given away and hundreds of people in the queues were left hungry.
Ultimately, the problem here isn’t so much that we make the wrong decisions — it’s that we have to make them at all. The problem here is scarcity. If there was enough food to eat, if there were enough coats and shoes to protect from the cold, then we wouldn’t be confronted with the prospect of denying these things to those who sorely need them.
Perhaps when we see scarcity like this we need to ask ourselves, what can we afford to give?