Sunday, April 3, 2016

Look for the Helpers: Enter Fadi

Fadi at work. Photo by Haley Weston Sides
Fadi is an amazing soul and I am so lucky to have met him.  I have only ever seen the man stop smiling once, upon learning that food for an entire camp had gone bad, and even then he didn't frown or show any sign of anger, he simply stopped smiling and stood silently for a moment.  We asked if everything was ok and he said simply; "there is a problem.  The food is all bad." Despite the fact that it was already 9:30pm, he proceeded to unload the van full of blankets he was delivering, and then drop most of us off at our hotel (Lily, bless her soul, insisted on going with him over his protestations that she had been working with him all day and should get some rest) and went back to Elliniko to gather up food from there to bring back to the camp, finishing in the middle of the night.

Fadi is of Syrian decent and has been living in Greece for many years...he used to work at the airport before being laid off at the beginning of the Greek economic crisis.  I'm honestly not sure how he earns a living these days, as he seems to be more or less single handedly running the Ellinko warehouse - as a volunteer - and can be seen at the port several times a day, morning, noon and night, delivering supplies in the 9 seater van that someone leased for him...though the donated time is coming to an end, and he will have to return the van or find a way to pay for it himself. I have no idea when he gets to spend time in his own home.

We asked him once, who else helps you to distribute the aid that comes to the warehouse? he looked at us, confused.  We rephrased the question; who else drives to make deliveries? Again, he seemed slightly confused, but answered, "no, no one else, only one driver, only me."

Fadi with a bin of supplies Lily gave him to assist with the organization at the warehouse.  He happily labeled it with her name and dated it.  Photo by Haley Weston Sides
Whenever we happened to be working at the port when he came by, he would stop the van and roll down his window, waving to people and flashing his huge smile...if you went over to greet him he'd hug you through the window or clasp your hand firmly and thank you for being there...the man has a way of making one feel appreciated.

At the warehouse, he goes above and beyond to make sure his volunteers feel the same appreciation.  The work there is tedious and never ending, but Fadi always makes sure that his volunteers are well taken care of.  He'll walk through the halls of this airport-turned-olympic-stadium that is now filled from the floor to the ceiling with goods donated from around the world, and let everyone individually know that pretty soon he will come around "in a big loud voice" to tell everyone it was time for a mandatory 5 minute break.  Fadi's "5 minute breaks" usually consist of being fed, often with a hot meal.

The Elliniko warehouse itself is a sight to behold; the huge hallways are filled floor to ceiling with aid that has poured in from all over the world.  Sadly, the infrastructure to distribute it all doesn't exist, so its functionality relies on volunteer support - to come, sort incoming aid into clearly labeled boxes, which are then placed in a designated spot where another volunteer comes by with a shopping cart to bring it into the bowels of the building, to put it with like items, waiting to be distributed - and, of course, on Fadi.

Inside the Elliniko Warehouse. Photo by Haley Weston Sides
At the time of this writing, to my knowledge, Fadi, this one, tireless, big hearted man is one of very few links between the aid the world is providing and the people who need it. What he does is a thankless, never-ending task and despite the fact that there is far more aid to deliver and far more people who need it than any one person can realistically handle;  he presses on, fueled by appreciation, smiles, and the love of the people he is helping.

Fadi is the helper who is in the background, quietly going about his business outside the media's eye, but for these people whose worlds have been upended, he is the giant keeping the sky from crashing down.

Fadi (and James). Photo by Haley Weston  Sides

If you are as inspired by this wonderful soul as I am, please consider joining us in our effort to buy Fadi a new van that he will not have to pay monthly rent for, so that he may continue his incredible and essential work unimpeded: Click here to see our fundraising page!!