As my friends and family know I visited Lesvos on holiday this year with my partner, whilst there we saw a tiny snapshot of the refugee crisis. And what we saw shocked us. i need your help as I plan to return to Lesvos as a volunteer in January.
Over 800,000 refugees have made the journey across the sea from Turkey to Lesvos in Greece this year, the tiny island of Lesvos has been overwhelmed and has relied on the support of volunteers to manage the situation. While volunteers have done amazing things the situation continues to be difficult and desperate at times. There can be thousands of people arriving a day, the process of registering for the refugees can be long and involve days of waiting, there is segregation of different nationalities that cause tension, the weather can be cold and wet, there is little infrastructure, there is death with boats sinking, there are people suffering PTSD, there are so many people, scared, hungry, tired, sick. There are tiny babies, old people, disabled people, families, people travelling alone just every sort of person of every age all needing help.
The refugees keep coming and are currently travelling more at night in even more dangerous conditions.
Volunteers are providing help in many ways including welcoming refugees off boats, giving medical aid, food, water, dry, clothes. Camps have been set up in different places on the island to provide where possible warmth, food and shelter whilst refugees register before being allowed to move on, this is not an easy process, waits can be long with people forced to sleep in the olive groves with no shelter and little or no support.
Volunteers are needed all the time, if they are not there then people do not get food, or are unable to get dry, receive medical attention the have been many days where people have gone without, not had their basic needs met as there has been no one to help them.
I can't just watch on Facebook anymore so I have given up my job and go to Lesvos to volunteer for a month. I'm leaving on the 11th January 2016. Lesvos needs people on the ground. As a social worker I have valuable skills that can be utilised by the teams already there, but I also plan to cook, clean, offer a friendly face, build shelters, sort donations - I am flexible and I'll do anything needed and useful. If by January the need in Lesvos has dramatically reduced then I will travel to another affected area of Greece to carry out this direct work supporting the refugees.
I estimate that it will cost roughly £2,000 for a month, this includes travel, accommodation , car hire(there is very limited public transport on the island) and basic food. If I raise more money than I need for these things then I will either donate to Refugee Start, a grass roots charity doing amazing work on the beaches in Lesvos, or purchase items locally in Lesvos to give directly to refugees or for use to directly support the refugees.