Help Brian and Katie Volunteer at the Refugee Camps

For: Brian and Katie Ernst
Greece
Organizer: Katie Ernst
$4,335
of $5,000 goal.
Raised by 40 donors
86% Complete

The Story

We are experiencing the biggest refugee crisis since World War 2. Millions of people are fleeing violence that we cannot imagine. Their homes and jobs have been destroyed, their children are witnessing things we wouldn’t want our kids to even read about.

Millions of people have suffered so much and 1000-3000 refugees are entering Lesvos, Greece every day with hope for a better future and a safe place to raise their children.

Relief efforts are significantly understaffed and underfunded and volunteers are needed to cook and serve food, sort and distribute donations, welcome the refugees as they get off the rafts and lead them to the camps, registration lines and provide them with a blanket, hot meal, cup of tea, whatever is available.

Brian and I feel called to go there and serve. To be present there, to remind these refugees of the good in humanity, to give them hope that they will be treated with kindness and empathy as they continue on this long journey.

We are free of a schedule and have never been so available, but we cannot make this happen without your support.

We want to go on your behalf and share our experiences with you while we’re there and then bring these stories, videos and photos on the road with us as we tour this summer. We want to shed light on the human impact of this war and share stories that illustrate that these refugees are people just like you and me.

Unfortunately nothing is being provided for volunteers and we’ll have to get a place to stay, cover our meals and rent a car. We’d like to serve for at least 40 days. Based on volunteers who are currently there and costs of flights we’re estimating we’ll need about $5000.

If we raise more we can either volunteer for longer or buy food, blankets, clothes, firewood and whatever else is needed while there on the ground for the refugees. If we don’t raise enough to go we’ll donate any money raised to meet the current needs of the refugees in Lesvos.

We are releasing a 4 track EP called ‘Spirit Song’ that Brian just finished recording here in Thailand. One of the songs is called ‘The Refugee’. All tips from this album will go towards this trip.  You can download it here:
http://www.brianernst.bandcamp.com
You can tip where you download but we’ll get 100% of your tip if you leave it here at youcaring instead.

We decided not to do this through Journey4YOUth as legally it does not fit into our current programs and objectives. We are still working on behalf of 100s of children and 30 women in Kenya and will continue to advocate for their needs with a focus on long lasting solutions through women empowerment and education for children.

We don’t do any of this for praise and we learn so much from the people we have been blessed to serve and work alongside of. We have also been so blessed by such an incredible community of people from all over the world who support us and make all these things possible.

Fundraiser Updates

Posted on March 17, 2016

Posted on March 17, 2016

I feel like I live a lifetime each year. One lifetime ends and the next one begins and I’m left trying to catch my breath. The things I leave come back in my dreams, my heart is in 100 places at the same time. I am floating in the vast ocean, a speck, but the water around me connects it all. At times I feel small, at times I feel as though I am the water myself and all these experiences and all the people I know and love are me and I am them and we are one.

How does one cope with war? I have fallen in love with the victims. 100s of them.

On one side of the Aegean Sea I gave to them a water, a smile, a hot meal, shoes, dry clothes, a ride to the ferry, stuffed animals. I looked them in the eyes and tried to communicate the inexpressible. The eyes have their own language, connected to the heart, the more time we spend with people who don’t speak English the more we learn about this universal language.

On the other side of the Aegean Sea these people known as refugees invited me into their homes, they treated me as family, they gave to me as if they had everything to give; they kissed me as if I were their daughter, they gave me their trust, they showed me the depths of their humanity. They told me their stories, we laughed as the children chased bubbles, we sat comfortably as life felt normal for a moment. They invited us to come visit them in Syria when the war ends. They said we would have a feast. A mother told me everyone would be welcome in her home, even those who hate her. She’s heard about people hating her on the news. Hating her because she is a Muslim. How can you hate someone you don’t know? You haven’t looked in her eyes and if you walked into her neighborhood she would invite you into her home, trusting you even though you are different from her. She would teach you about humanity as everything has been taken from her, but she is still the same. The war has not taken her soul; her love, her trust, her compassion, her ability to put others before herself. You would learn so much from her in just ten minutes.

Inside of me is a well of tears. I hate war. I want peace, I long for peace. I want to see these families again, I want to see them in Syria. I want to join together again with volunteers from all over the world to rebuild Syria. But the old men will tell you this war isn’t going to end soon. Many men and women have asked us ‘why are they bombing civilians, they can see who they are bombing and it’s not the rebels, it’s not ISIS, it’s the people. The schools, the homes, the hospitals.” They don’t ask because they think we know the answers, they ask to make us think. From what they’ve told me it seems as though this war isn’t really about one group vs the other it’s all the groups’ vs the people. The children haven’t gone to school for over 5 years now. What will happen to this generation? Many haven’t heard from their family members, they are fleeing as their homes crumble down upon them, they are crawling through smugglers tunnels to get to northern Syria safely. They are leaving behind everything, well almost everything. One woman proudly showed us her tea cup from Syria and another father gave Brian the watch off his arm. Now the borders are closing. People are trapped in war. Life as they knew it is no more. Resources are few, many have starved. Macedonia closed its border a few weeks ago and many who thought they were on their way to Europe where they could seek asylum and become legal free citizens again are stuck in Greece. 2 men hung themselves in Athens. Children sleep on the streets.

These people don’t want to come to Europe or the States and take our jobs, they don’t want to change our culture. They want to be free. They want to know their children are safe and can go to school. They want to be able to feed their children and give them all they need. They want to make new friends, they want to be listened to. Their dream isn’t to come to Amercia or somewhere in Europe, their dream is to go back to Syria because they all say, “there is nowhere like home”. The people I met and I met thousands are peaceful, humble, generous, giving, grateful.

If you treat someone with dignity they will be dignified. If you show someone kindness they will give you even more kindness in return. You would think that war has the potential to strip away humanity. But I have found the opposite and it makes me hate war even more. Perhaps when all the things that are temporary are taken from us we realize what truly matters and we value not just our own lives more but the lives of everyone else as well. We have this amazing ability as people to find hope. Perhaps it’s planted in us from the beginning, this inner knowing that there is more than this life.

Walking away from this time this is what comforts me. There is more than this life, I have no proof or logic to offer you but I know this in a way I cannot explain, it’s the language of the heart that has no words. For some this life is nothing but suffering but somehow this suffering refines them, strengthens them, and brings out the best in them. But one hour of pain can feel like a lifetime so I cannot ignore suffering, I cannot dismiss it even though I recognize it as a teacher. Too many genocides have happened even in our lifetime and too often the world has remained quiet. Please don’t be quiet. Speak out against hate, speak out against prejudice, challenge people who may be trapped in fear, help them realize our shared humanity. It’s these attitudes of prejudice and hatred that lead to the mass suffering of so many innocent people. Prejudice and hatred is where it starts so when you feel like you can’t do anything to end this present war or help the millions who are now displaced teach tolerance, teach compassion and don’t just teach it, live it. If you don’t know where to start spend time with the poor, spend time with the marginalized, they have always been my greatest teachers.

Posted on March 6, 2016

Posted on March 6, 2016

It has been encouraging to know we are supported in this work but please don't read our posts and simply think Brian and Katie are good people. What we are doing is the natural response, it is the human response and it never feels like enough. Read our posts and realize the severity of this war. Borders are closing, 25 more people drowned today. Families I know will cross the Aegean Sea this week, people I have come to love, people I ate dinner with tonight, people I want to be friends with for the rest of my life. I can buy a ferry ticket for 10 euro and safely cross but they have to pay smugglers 1000 euro, pass in the middle of the night on an overcrowded rubber raft, with their children, in the cold. And if they make it what then? Tear gas at the borders, sleeping in the streets as the camps are full, being told Damascus is safe you have to go back to Syria, we're only accepting Syrian refugees from Aleppo now....WHY? Are we afraid? Do we think there is not enough for everyone? Did we not learn how to share when we were 2 years old? Have we forgotten what it is like to be human? The Syrian families I have been privileged to visit in their homes here in Turkey have not forgotten, they give me gifts when they came here with a plastic bag of their possessions, they said if we came to their home and they had only one piece of bread they would offer it to us and go hungry. A mother told me two days ago Syria always took in refugees and now it feels like no one will take us, when the war ends I will welcome everyone into my home, even those who hate me. She served us apples and we cried together for the hatred in the world. Why do people hate her?
I realize most of you reading this feel the same way I do but we need to speak up. We need to act. I cannot bear the injustice and inequality anymore. I spend my days with people from Syria who are called refugees, they are the same as me the only difference is I am free and they are not. I know my family is safe and they do not.
Lets join our voices and raise them loud maybe our politicians will hear us, we need safe passage, we need freedom of movement, we need to treat every single person that walks this earth with dignity

Posted on March 2, 2016

Posted on March 2, 2016

Sleep is heavy on me now but there is so much I want to tell you. I wish you could walk with us here for just one day. I wish you could have tea in the homes of these refugees and realize we all want the same things. Realize that politics, wars, corporations, greed, religion (not faith) and fear divide us but EVERYTHING ELSE UNITES US. While my heart and spirit are crushed by the brutalities of this war, the lies, the borders closing, the millions who cannot leave Syria, the suffering of nameless people as our governments pour money into fences and bombs...Yet I am equally encouraged by the human spirit, the strength of those who have taken bullets, watched innocent children drown, crawled through holes to escape a place they once called home that is now only a pile of ash and stone. I have sat in the homes of many these last 11 days that have left behind everything they've known, most come with some of their family and no possessions but they are so quick to serve us, to offer us anything they can. A baby was born yesterday to one of the families we visited today. I pray this child knows nothing of war. I pray for the children who wake up crying in the night. I pray for the families I saw waiting tonight on the corner with their life-jackets in garbage bags, I pray they make it safely to Europe and I pray the West will welcome them into their homes and communities like they welcome us. I look into the eyes of these people called refugees and I see courage, I see love, I see longing, I see tolerance, I see forgiveness, I see myself and I see you. I wish you could also see them.

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