Ready to tumble - Jo Crawford

I’m sure everyone feels the same way about laundry. Watching the pile of clothing on your chair grow higher and higher throughout the week, this only adds to the feeling of resentment towards picking it all up and throwing it in the washing machine. Engulfed with a mountain of fabric, you detest the thought of carrying, separating and organising these loads to get that final result of clean clothing in the morning. Before coming to Samos, the sound of washing other people’s clothes didn’t seem like the most exciting, or fulfilling job I could do to help others. I guess I was very much mistaken.

Samos Volunteers offers a laundry and ticketing service for the refugee camp. Six days a week volunteers make their way through the camp, from section to section, offering benefactors the opportunity to have their clothes washed. The camp facilities are limited to the extent that individuals have to resort to either washing their clothes by hand, or nothing at all. Samos Volunteers gives them the opportunity to have everything washing in the very same day. At select times, individuals make their way down to the station with ticket and stuffed bags, to have their clothes washed and dried. We usually are able to wash individual’s items at least once a month – the harsh reality of an overpopulated camp and a small group of individuals who want to help.

Waking up at 7am to face a morning of washing clothes – I never loathe the once monotonous chore. In fact, I find it one of the most satisfying and beneficial jobs I can do here with Samos Volunteers. In such cramped conditions, there are numerous cases of scabies, bed bugs, lice and illnesses in the camp. If you find that your clothes and bedding have become the home of nasty microorganisms, infecting you and those around you, it can only add to the horrific conditions that these individuals find themselves in. However, with a medical paper, and Samos Volunteers, we can fast track people to have all of their laundry washed and dried for them; to help them get rid of these infestations.

I will never forget the faces of individuals when they come to collect their bags of clean, dried and folded clothes; so much happiness and joy is brought from such a once seemingly small task. I take care and pride with every bag full of laundry - as I know just how important these possessions, especially clean, are to the well being of others. But more fundamentally, going back to life at home, I always feel good when I put on a clean outfit or get into a freshly made bed.

Aside from the obvious medical problems we can alleviate when being able to wash people’s clothing; we give people in the camp a sense of pride and humanity. You can see how small acts can help make a huge difference; cups of tea, a smile, conversation, and yes, washing clothes! Giving back a sense of dignity and respect can only help to improve the wellbeing of others, especially in this day and age where mental health is such a prominent focus.

I believe the laundry station at Samos Volunteers is by far one of the most important and rewarding jobs we do here for the people in the refugee camp. We have managed to wash the items of nearly 4000 people in a few months; helping to improve their quality of life. It is extremely inspiring watching how dedicated the volunteers are to improving the system of ticketing, or functioning of the machines, especially as it nears winter – to help increase the number of those we can help, in as efficient a manner as possible.

Samos Volunteers