Amy is a fellow doula and friend from my Chico days. When I learned about the plight of refugee families, I, like many others, watched and read until my heart hurt and my head couldn't handle the helplessness I felt. Carry the Future came from mother Cristal Logothetis' idea to provide donated baby carriers to fleeing families. Genius! If I had to grab my family and leave my home, on foot, amidst thousands of people doing the same, carrying and keeping my baby safe would be my highest priority. A baby carrier would serve the crucial roles of keeping my hands free and keeping my baby near. I can't go to Greece myself, I can't be there. I am grateful for people like Amy, who can help make a difference in such a simple way, for this very complicated problem.
When did you train as a doula? Six years ago I became a doula. I have always been fascinated with birth. I witnessed my first baby born at age 12. For years, my work centered around supporting women becoming mothers, and also their new babies. Becoming a doula seemed a likely next step.
Did your own experiences of birth and being a mother factor into wanting to be a doula? Yes, I had amazing "birth plans," and used midwives, and my mother and sister -- I relied so much on their support. When everything about my plans went out the window with my first birth, I understood the power of that extra support person to speak to me, to help me navigate my options.
What is it you like about doula work? Witnessing the birth of the mother...her power. With each birth, I am always humbled to my core to be there as a supporter, to have been asked to help in this intimate, sacred space. The first gaze of mother to child is the most precious of moments for me.
How did you hear about Carry the Future? Carry the Future came to me through a text from an amazing mentor, Debbie Pierce. She casually asked if I thought helping fit refugee mothers with baby carriers was a possibility for me. When I answered that it sounded like a life goal, I quickly was put in touch with a group of mothers in a non-stop Facebook chat that was inspired by a woman's Indiegogo campaign to collect carriers. Two months later, I was traveling to Greece with nine strangers, who have changed my life.
We hear about human tragedy a lot, and wish we could help -- what motivated you to actually take the steps to travel to Greece? My children are a little older now, but I also have been practicing saying "Yes" more, and almost without too much thought, I committed, and it felt like something bloomed in my heart...it was right, and I have never been the same since.
How did you feel when you finally saw for yourself the situations these families faced? The refugee families were MY family! I was these mothers. I felt the fierce protection they had for their precious children. I saw the men holding their families tight, offering support to their wives, and often being the person to carry the babies on their chests. I was so taken by the grace of the families as they arrived, coming through the shock and unspeakable loss many (most) had endured. I was able to see how they could teach us, in solidarity, how connected we all are -- how the same we all are.
How safe is it for volunteers like you? I have never felt in danger on my trips. I have been to Athens two times, and Lesvos once. We would arrive sometimes at 4 am and stay until past midnight. There are eyes on everyone, caring for and keeping everyone safe. The situation has become slightly more volatile with the terrible EU deal with Turkey and the boarders closing. There is desperation, but I am returning June 3 to do the work, sit with these mothers, share and hold space like some do for each other. [A true doula's heart~SB]
Can you describe a typical day? As a group, we created jobs for ourselves, like a mama bear to make sure everyone was eating and crying and laughing enough, ferry trackers to watch the ships come in on a boat, watch apps on the phones, and photographers and journal writers to record this work. We would be up most days around 4 am, shovel a protein bar or an apple in, and taxi to the ports. The ferries carry 1000-2500 refugees at a time, and some days, we received 6 boats. These are the large boats bringing all the people from the islands after they made it from being smuggled overnight from Turkey. We would maybe take a nap at the cafe or back at our apartment if there was time between arriving boats, or travel to the short term camps to distribute aid and carriers, or even just sweep the floors. We spend time in the warehouses collecting specific needs for the camps we are going to that day, and organizing if there is a ferry strike. Many late nights, we would gather to decompress, cry it out, and share a plate of pita or Greek salads. The next day would often start 5 hours later. I have never been so glad to be so tired. It was like having a newborn child, you just "do it" and love hard.
I have always been impressed by your mother's kind and gentle, generous nature. How has she shaped your desire to help others? My mother's kindness and amazing compassion has absolutely created the desire in me to help others. I saw her always welcoming a new neighbor with dinner, or helping to feed or clean for a new mother. I have always believed we are all neighbors and connected, because of my mother's nature. She inspires me every day to be more giving and gentle, even with myself.
How many times have you been to Greece now? Are you planning to go back? What is required in planning a trip? I leave June 3rd for my 4th trip (I did a back-to-back trip in February from Lesvos, and then met and led a team in Athens six days later -- my first trip was in November last year). Buying a ticket is the first step. Everything for my personal needs has to fit in a carry-on. Each team member meets up at a distribution center (we now have three across the country) and picks up about 400 pounds of carriers to travel with. What is needed? A valid passport (not expiring within 30 days), an "anything-could-happen" team player attitude, and a desire to show love are all the requirements you need. Most of our trips are planned the same way until a situation changes, then we must be fluid and rearrange locations and accommodations -- the love and dedication stay the same.
This next trip will be more solo, and I will be working in the camps and directly with a female-friendly space for breastfeeding support, re-establishing lactation, and a place for mothers to bond with each other as they will likely be in camps in Greece for what may be a long time. I will continue to do this work, and I will return until I am no longer needed -- in Solidarity.
♥ four young boys and a boy dog (offspring)