Karah Thompson (right) and Julie Cadavero wait at a train station in Oinofyta, Greece.

SCOUTING AROUND: Volunteer brings home refugees' stories

   Karah Thompson spent a good part of October in Greece, but the slideshow she presented to family and friends once she returned didn’t show images of her enjoying a typical vacation overseas. Instead, it showed images of ordinary people, who under extraordinary circumstances had to leave their homes and escape to Greece as refugees.
   Thompson, along with Julie Cadavero, traveled from Murphy to a refugee camp in Greece to volunteer as nurses. They volunteered with Adventist Help and worked out of a clinic in a pod. The clinic, which had an exam room and pharmacy, was the only medical care those in the camp received.
   “They did everything in this little box,” she said.
   If anyone needed an ambulance, it was usually a 30-40 minute wait, and Emergency Medical Services workers were known to mistreat the patients. She said it was an emotional, meaningful experience.
   She learned the fear that drove people from their homes and the hardships they encountered on their journey across countries in the Mideast. To get to an island in Greece, they pile on plastic boats and hope they make it to the shore, where they are welcomed with a blanket and socks.
   Once there, they are dependent on resources available in the camp. There are no work opportunities, and if something is not given to them they go without.
   “No one is self-sufficient by the time they reach a refugee camp,” Thompson said.
   However, she said everyone she met wanted to work and wanted a job. Most didn’t have a country in mind for a final destination – they just wanted freedom and safety.
   Thompson said the camps vary in condition, and she learned she was working in one of the better ones. Families lived together in an old factory building. Each family had a room that was 12-by-12 feet. Everyone shared a camp cooking area, which they had to take turns using.
   She hopes sharing her experience will help refugees, even if it’s simply changing the way someone feels about those who are oppressed.
   “We have to find a solution. It could have been us,” Thompson said. “They only left because nothing was fine at home.”

Free pantry answers need
   Since June, Martins Creek United Methodist Church has had a Little Free Pantry filled with non-perishable food for anyone to take what they need or leave what they can.
   Each Sunday after the service, the congregation checks the red-painted cabinet, which sits along the parking lot of the church, and refills it as needed. For the last few weeks, the small congregation has checked their pantry to find it empty.
   “There’s a need in which people don’t have enough food, and I think that the usage shows that,” said Shelley Chastain, part-time pastor of the church.
   In the past, the church made food baskets and helped provide food for the backpack program at the school. She said it’s important for the church to help because there are a lot of low-income families in the area.
   The church building is at 485 Brasstown Road in a secluded area, easing any embarrassment someone may feel for needing food, Chastain said. Gas and transportation also can be a big deal in a rural area, so she thinks it helps anyone who can walk to the church, but may not be able to get to one of the full-size food pantries in driving distance.
   The pantry was built by pastor Dick Richards. It is a small, cabinet-size wooden pantry painted red that stands on two white-painted legs.
   He got the idea after seeing similar food pantries in Franklin. Chastain would like to see more little free food pantries around the county to help those in need.
   The church is welcoming donations for the pantry. Donations must be non-perishable items that can withstand heat and cold. Donations may be placed in the box or on the porch of the church if no one is available to accept the donations.
   Samantha Sinclair is the Scouting Around columnist for the Cherokee Scout. You can reach her by email, scoutingaround@cherokeescout.com; fax, 837-5832; or by leaving a message in the office at 837-5122.