In Apri/Mayl I will be travelling out to Lesvos, a small Greek island, which is currently experiencing a humanitarian crisis that is taking the lives of countless individuals daily.
I'm going to spend 7 days volunteering with Lighthouse Relief in a refugee camp, helping with cooking, cleaning, building, distribution of aid, sorting through warehouses, greeting night boats of refugees that are crossing the sea, giving them blankets and taking and washing their wet clothes, transporting them to the various camps around the island.
The small island has an estimated 30,000 refugees, with an average of 40 dinghies - carrying refugees fleeing Syria and other countries via Turkey - arriving on beaches up and down the island daily.
A mixture of young, old, babies, disabled, pregnant and those really in distresses are making the horrific journey and arriving at their first point in Europe usually at night helpless and confused.
My plan is to spend the money I raise here in Lesvos on basic, much needed items such as nappies, blankets and food. The more money I raise, the more people I can help. It really is as simple as that.
What Is Happening In Lesvos?
Lesvos is geographically the closest point to Turkey by boat, and the most common point of access into Europe for refugees. However, in the last year, the number of refugees landing in Lesvos has grown exponentially.
The tragedy of the families who are forced to flee their homelands in despair is beyond explanation. We don’t know how many of them will make it to the shore or how many of them will ever recover from what they have had to suffer. The least we can do is to be human and provide them a warm welcome. Lesvos is only a small step in their painful journey.
Increasing numbers of refugees and migrants take their chances aboard unseaworthy boats, often with fake lifejackets aboard dinghies in a desperate bid to reach Europe.
Most of these refugees are from Syria and Afghanistan, a small number are from Somalia, Pakistan, Iraq and other countries. Most are in need of international protection because they are fleeing war, violence or persecution in their own countries, but all are in need of some form of medical attention.
Upon arrival in Greece, refugees are registered and kept in ‘camps’ until their registration is completed. A number of aid organisations are tirelessly working on the ground, running these camps and doing all they can to alleviate this heartbreaking humanitarian crisis. Unfortunately, due to the recent swell in numbers of refugees, many people are left without medical care, and do not reach a camp for several days. They are forced to sleep along unsheltered roads, vulnerable to the elements and are often without basic sanitation, food or water.
This year alone over 300 people have been reported dead, drowned at sea. 62,397 arrivals have been by sea.
What Can We Do To Help?
I have been in contact with two organisations working on the ground in Lesvos. The first co-ordinates the distribution of aid to refugees (clothes, food, toiletries, etc). The second co-ordinates medical teams working both on the shores and in the camps.
I will primarily be involved in the distribution of aid, sorting through warehouses, greeting night boats of refugees that are crossing the sea as well as transporting them to the various camps around the island.
I am also looking to work in one of the Children’s camps – Keeping them entertained through arts and crafts and keeping their minds away from the memory of war and lost family members. Keeping them safe and most of all offering a smile and a warm hug.
I will have funded my own flights and accommodation and spends whilst on the island
It will be beneficial for me to purchase and transport my own medical supplies and I desperately need donations for the following:
- Medical equipment including dressings and bandages from the UK.
- The funds to allow the replenishment these items while in Greece along with nappies, blankets, food etc. (thus supporting the local community and economy who have started stocking equipment in their shops especially to support the crisis)
Any money left over will be allocated to aid organisations on the ground, to use how they best see fit.
To give you an idea on the costs and what your donation could buy:
€3 bag of locally grown oranges
€15 study ankle boots for men, women and children
€12 -15 athletic shoes for men
€20 warm coat for a child
€16 women's sweatshirt and pants
€10-13 childrens sweatshirt and pants
€20 midsized backpack
My aim is to raise €5000
As I will have a limited luggage allowance the majority of items will need to be purchased once I am out there, though I plan on taking the following with me:
- Emergency foil blankets
- Rain ponchos
- Toothbrushes and toothpaste
- Wet Wipes
- Disposable razors
- Small bottles of hand sanitizer and hotel-size bottles of shampoo
- Bars of soap
- Vitamin tablets (to mix with water)
- Hair combs
- Cereal / high protein bars
- Playing cards
- Small teddies for the children
If you can help by donating any of these items or by donating funds to enable me to purchase aid whilst on the island I would be extremely grateful – I can’t promise to make a difference on my own, but with your help I will be able to provide some of the most basic hygiene care and hopefully bring a smile to a child’s face.
Children make up one in four of refugees and migrants crossing the Mediterranean since January 2015. Many travel without their parents or caretakers. (UNHCR) 11 Jan 2016
Please support me. The situation in Lesvos is worsening and is only set to deteriorate further as the refugee numbers swell.
Refugees arrival rate seems to follow the weather forecast - only high winds and waves stop them coming, then the day or two after the wind drops are usually extremely busy. If you look at the UNHCR data portal of arrivals over 2015, the month by month trend also follows the weather. So I'd expect it to start getting busier again in March – just prior to my visit in April.
If you want to enquire further and find out more about how any funds will be spent, or suggest further things I might do to help, then please get in touch with me.
I just wanted to say a massive THANK YOU for your support. I will be as transparent as possible with all money donated and update everyone who supports me and my aid mission.