If you’re not sure where Santa was stationed before coming to your home, here is a little secret: he stopped by Schönefeld station yesterday morning to distribute little presents to some 236 refugees arriving the same morning in Berlin.
Around 6:30, we’re five of us in front of the hall. It is still closed, but we’re already waiting as there is a lot to do today. On top of the usual preparation, we mobilized people from our Facebook group for extra donations so that everyone should receive something special for this special arrival. It worked well: we have enough gifts for all children. They’re almost half of our new Berliners arriving this morning: 101. Including a two-days old baby peacefully sleeping in his tired mother’s arms.
It has been a while we hadn’t seen any journalist, today the AFP sent one of his photographer. Christmas effect. But the man tells me that it has been difficult to sell refugees stories now. People lose interest. As a journalist myself I understand, as a human being it makes me sad. But today I can’t be: there is too much to do, and all I see is volunteers who haven’t lost interest since August and their first day of volunteering.
As in all Christmas specials, I meet old friends, whom I haven’t seen for months. They’re passing by, before work, before the preparation for the big evening. We organize a work-chain to wrap our gifts. New helpers came with Christmas biscuits packets, for adults. We’re preparing little bags with soap bubbles, coloured pens, customizable masks, drawing papers, sweets and a chocolate Santa for each. Someone puts Christmas Carols on and here we are, like little elves.
Speaking of green creatures, the army doesn’t do much this morning. As they sit around using the WiFi I paid for with our donations, I go and switch off the router. We still use a data stick so I’d rather save that for people who need it for something else than watching YouTube videos, than for those who can afford to use their own credit.
People are coming with Christmas hats, and in order to guide Santa through the hall, because after all it’s his first time among us, Melanie, one of our volunteers, decides not to come so that an angel could do her job instead. The angel is very friendly, naturally, and helps distributing the gifts to kids who all have stars in their eyes.
Expected at 8 am, the train arrives two hours later. It has been on time the last while, but fate decided otherwise. A lot of volunteers can’t stay till the arrival, they have other arrivals to deal with: that of their family for the Holy Night. Some of them come and tell me why they have to leave. “I’m waiting for [amount of people] family members to come, and nothing is ready”, “I wish I could stay, but [reason]”. They really don’t have to give a reason. Each do as much as they can, we’re not judging. Those of us who are here do so because we not only can but also wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. But this is a personal choice, and not staying doesn’t mean you’re a bad volunteer. It’s not about how long you stay and help, it’s about caring, at all. And today we’ll really manage, there are still enough hands and we’re on a high from all the love and support that surround us.
Even some of the officials are wearing Christmas gear. When people arrive, it’s way more relaxed than usual. Despite our cheery mood though, the situation hasn’t changed: people arrive, are lost, don’t know where they are and where to go. So we run around, distribute clothes, food, information. The music has long stopped. But there is a lot of soap bubbles floating around, and a lot of happy kids, their backpacks filled with teddy bears, and their eyes shining with happiness.
At around 12, the last people are taken to the shelters. We pack our own things, some of us driving to other shelters to distribute the remaining presents. The day is far from being over, but today was lighter to deal with. We have been working together for months now, and it’s not an even path. We get on most of the time but also cry, argue, feel discouraged, disgusted, depressed, but we keep going with the same goal: giving its full sense to our Train of Hope, and it’s not going to stop anytime soon.
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