“I can’t imagine my children going through the trauma these boys had to go through”
Virginia Tsigarida, Faros’ shelter cook, starts cooking at 6 a.m. every morning and by the time the children come downstairs for breakfast, the scents of baking goods, tea, and coffee have already fled out and filled the shelter. Working behind the kitchen counter, Virginia already knows how everyone has their breakfast: some boys will ask for some additional sugar in their tea, others would like some cereal or just a cup of milk. “As a typical Greek mom, I have everything ready before they ask,” she jokes.
Virginia cooks more than 100 servings each day for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Part of the job is to learn new recipes, which create a sense of home for the boys. “It is a very creative job, I learned to cook with several different spices unknown to me,” she adds while describing how she makes her Afghani chicken biryani, an all-time favorite at the shelter.
When Virginia is off duty or she is taking some time off the boys miss her cooking. “One day a boy told me: ‘No one cooks lentil soup the way you do,” she adds.
She often finds herself thinking about her own children when she chats with the boys at the shelter. “I can’t imagine my children going through the trauma these boys had to go through,” she says.
Birthdays at the shelter are a warm and intimate affair. Virginia always prepares the birthday cakes with care. “During the lockdowns, I missed many birthdays,” she says. “A child once wanted a white cake for his birthday. I made it at home and had my husband deliver it to the shelter.”
The hardest part of her job? When she has to say "goodbye" to children who either move on to supported independent living apartments, after they turn 18, or are reunited with their families abroad, she adds.
“Fortunately, many children come back to pay a visit. They miss us and we miss them.”