Hi there and thanks for your interest: I first heard about Samos Volunteers two years ago, and traveled to Samos island, which is very close to Turkey, to support their work over the summer. I was impressed. not only by the Volunteers' dedication to the refugees arriving from Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and other conflict zones, but also by their integrity and vision: the Volunteers distributed clothes to families who had lost everything, set-up a school in the camp so the kids could continue studying, plus classes for adults: they facilitated access to hospitals, and legal advice and most of all, treated each refugee with dignity.
During my first visit, in 2016, there were more than 1,200 refugees in a camp with a capacity for 700. Now there are 4,700 refugees in the camp on Samos: it is so over-crowded families are sleeping outside, in tents, under the trees. Agencies recently ran out of stocks of tents, and many refugees have no choice but to cope with these harsh conditions, of daily rations and sleeping on the ground with their children.
Samos Volunteers has now opened a resource centre, called Alpha, in the town of Vathy, just a few hundred metres from the refugee camp: the centre is run together with refugees, providing space where people can learn, and practice skills like English and computers, women can meet and support each other, and kids can study, and play. It's a place where every refugee is welcome, there's always a cup of tea and a warm place to sit. It is a sanctuary.
I am returning to Samos at the end of November, to volunteer there for two months over Christmas and New Year: this fundraiser will contribute towards the running costs of the Alpha centre, as well as towards pillows, rain-jackets and winter clothes for those refugees most in need at the camp i.e. those sleeping outside. It will also pay for materials for activities at the centre (pens, notebooks, markers etc) and for washing powder for the washing machines donated to Samos Volunteers - the only laundry service refugees can use free of charge. Having clean clothes means a hell of a lot to people who've lost everything.
Finally, the money will go towards sharing Christmas with with the most vulnerable refugees: in my experience, being welcomed to celebrate, no matter your beliefs or religion, is invaluable, especially to those suffering the trauma of missing families, and a place to call home.
Please let me be clear: this fundraiser is not for my own expenses: Samos Volunteers pay all their own expenses, including travel and accommodation: every penny raised will do directly to this work which I support with all my heart. The refugees, all people like us but stranded throughout the Greek islands, have dropped off the news agenda, but they have no-where else to go. Last month (October) 1,600 refugees arrived in Samos.
Your donation of £10 will pay to heat the Alpha Centre for half a day: £20 will heat it for a full day, and £30 will pay for a class to have notebooks, pens and cups of tea after a lesson: £30 will also buy three pillows for people sleeping outside, or a rain-jacket for a refugee: £50 will pay for a week of washing powder that means hundreds of refugees can have clean, fresh clothes over Christmas and New Year.
For more details, please see the volunteers' website: https://samosvolunteers.org
You can also find up-to-date information from UNHCR on conditions on Samos here: https://bit.ly/2OIGzJB
If you can donate something towards this work supporting people to live with dignity, thank you so much :)