A return visit

Toddlers can be challenging to weigh at visits and to entertain while their mothers chat, so NPI volunteer Michelle enlisted the help of some friends!

Michelle first volunteered for NPI when refugees were housed predominantly in camps around Thessaloniki. On a return visit this month she describes a day in her volunteer life with NPI now most refugees have been moved to hotels and apartments.  

‘Up at 6:30am. After a couple of cups of good strong coffee and a chat, we head down to make up the food packs for the day’s visits. I am slower and less accurate than the rest of the team at making up the food packs, something which I know is not going to get better (because I stunk at it last time too). I am grateful for their patience.

‘Today’s visits are all in the city centre, very different from the camp set-up: more time-consuming, better quality housing and more familiar to my private practice experience. The chaos of the city is amplified, if that’s possible, by the fact that it is market day and we find many of the streets that Google insist we use closed. One might think that it also makes parking harder to find, but truly, in Thessaloniki, parking could not be made worse than it is on a typical day.

‘All our visits are with older babies and are really about support more than clinical skills, which ends up being true almost all the time here and everywhere else. The isolation of being apartments scattered through the city is something that I don’t think many people consider – and yet it’s so much a feature of the struggle of mothering for the women we see.

‘Housing quality varies a great deal. Two of the apartments are most charitably described as bleak and two are quite airy and bright: they are all spotless, minimally furnished and definitely not really home. My knees start to remind me of my age as we climb to the third floor of yet another building – but a little ice cream shop delivers an end of day reward on the way back to the car.

‘A quick dinner and some shop talk with my flatmate about the different standards for infant feeding in the world and then I am off to bed. I’m sure the evenings will get more exciting, but for tonight, my jet-lagged eyes are happy for a rest’.