Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Look for the Helpers: Enter Rita

I stole this photo from Rita's facebook profile because it shows how gorgeous she is, inside and out.
Rita is a powerhouse of a woman.

She is the leader of "Team Athens", the permanent presence of CTF, though she and her team do much more than simply fit carriers. She has a seemingly endless network of connections, and is fearless in her efforts to do right by these people who have been wronged by life.  Despite working a full time job, she comes to the port to deliver toys or socks and hats almost daily.  Among her loyal volunteers are two young men, Nikos and Alexi, who work tirelessly alongside her.

When they wouldn't let the refugees off the boat, she talked her way into getting us on the boat.  When they didn't have food or water for more than 12 hours, she took Alex and Nikos to find a kitchen that was open at midnight, and brought them all food.  When we needed intel on boats and refugees, she made a phone call and we got immediate answers.

At the port, when a boat arrived with refugees on it, the police would wait until all the tourists were off the boat, and then bring in buses to box in the refugees so they wouldn't have much choice but to get on them. Still, many refugees would refuse to get on the buses, opting instead to stay on in the port, and take their chances there rather than risk getting stuck and forgotten in a long term camp.

Usually, they will not tell anyone where the buses are headed, to avoid fights breaking out about who got to go to which camp, and the like...but one day when we were at the port, Rita struck up a conversation with a bus driver and asked where they were being taken.  The driver wouldn't give her any names, but did say that this group was lucky, they would be taken to a camp that used to be used as a summer camp for the children of military personnel, and already had nice amenities and the conditions there were far better than the port or any existing camp.

In this particular group, only about 6 people agreed to board the bus straight away, and the other 40 or so people were refusing to board.  Rita has a humongous heart, and does her best to advocate for what is right for the people she is serving in every situation.  We watched as she managed to get into the center of this lost and confused group of people, and somehow managed to convince every one of them that it really was in their best interest to board this bus rather than get stuck in the port.

She works tirelessly for the well-being of these people, operating in a decidedly Greek way by doing what needs to be done even if it goes above and beyond what she has been instructed to do.  She is fiercely loyal, and anyone who has worked with her can tell you how awesome it is to put in several hours of hard work at the port, and then have Rita caravan the team to get souvlaki together, or to meet up with the american teams for dinner at the hotel, or...something. No one works with her and comes away feeling unappreciated.  I hope she feels the same love and admiration that she doles out, because she deserves it!

Oh, and did I mention?  Today is her birthday!!  In honor of this hard-working, loving woman, several of the people who have worked alongside her (or been helped by her!) have made this loving tribute.  Enjoy, and Happy Birthday, Rita!!!