Maria Karagouni (44, from Athens, Greece) has been part of the team distributing cleaning products, toiletries and supplies for babies since the first day City Plaza opened its doors to 400 refugees.
How does The Storage Space work at City Plaza?
Now we open The Storage Space everyday between between 4 and 9PM. When City Plaza first opened we were open 12 hours a day. It was really chaotic. At the beginning we had more donations, more support.
9 months later, we have a lot less donations. It’s very difficult at the moment. We have to economise a lot.
I usually work here twice a week and there are 5 of us (Greeks) who take it in turns to distribute everything.
Some of the items distributed at City Plaza:
- For babies: nappies, milk, food, cream, powder
- Razors/shaving foam
- Toilet paper
- Cleaning products
- Sanitary products for women
What are the challenges you face?
A personal challenge for me (laughs) is carrying the heavy boxes!
Sometimes it’s a challenge to organise the items and work out a fair way of distributing, keeping track of who has what and prioritising families and pregnant women if we have a limited amount of certain items.
The language barrier is also something we have to work with everyday. But we work things out! I’ve learnt some basic words in the languages spoken by refugees living here and there are many people who now know how to say ‘shampoo’, ‘soap’, ‘pampers’ in English and Greek.
What is a typical day for you at City Plaza?
We open at 4. We make sure the hoovers are here! (There are 2 working at City Plaza at the moment which are shared between the 400 people living here.) These we really have to keep track of.
Before it gets busy I try to make sure that everything’s clean and ready. We put the shampoo and washing powder in plastic cups. And I always have children who visit me when I’m here too.
Maria with Lilas (10)
3 words to describe your experience working at City Plaza:
Love, hope, safety
Why did you get involved in the City Plaza project?
I felt that I really wanted to do something to help refugees who are trapped in Greece since the borders closed to Europe last year. I wasn’t able to go to the camps or help to rescue refugees travelling here by boat.
Coming to City Plaza was the best thing I could do. And I had experience distributing items for basic needs. I worked before in Athens giving items to refugees at the beginning of the refugee crisis, when this all started.
Why is it important for people living at City Plaza to have access to the items you distribute?
If this space which provides for people’s basic needs didn’t exist, the people living here wouldn’t be able to wash themselves, their clothes, clean their rooms, feed their babies. It’s as simple as that.
Given that City Plaza is not supported by NGOs and relies entirely on donations, what does solidarity mean to you?
Without donations to City Plaza, this ‘family’ can’t function. If we don’t have money to look after everyone, we can’t ensure that everyone is healthy, warm and safe.
At the moment there are 4 pregnant women living here. Without money we can’t provide the basic needs for these women for example or their babies when they’re born. Over these months I’ve watched babies who were born at City Plaza grow (smiles) and go up in nappy sizes! We all have to look after each other in this world.
However small or big your donation, every little will help. Everyone at City Plaza thanks you for your kindness and support in helping us to continue to live and work together in our home, to continue to live here in peace, togetherness and solidarity.
Donate here: http://www.youcaring.com/keepcityplazaopen