Supporting Refugees in Northern Greece

For: Colleen Sinsky
Polikastro, Makedonia Thraki, Greece
Organizer: Colleen Sinsky
$2,146
of $3,000 goal.
Raised by 21 donors
71% Complete
This fundraiser is not active at this time.

The Story

Greece is quickly becoming a "warehouse of souls" for the 80,000+ refugees trapped between closed borders and war at home. I've been based here in Polykastro, Greece, coordinating volunteers for the small Norwegian NGO, "A Drop In The Ocean" since early May. We distribute clothing, hygiene items, shoes, and household supplies to two of the army camps in the area. One, Nea Kavala, has around 1,800 residents (mostly Syrian) and the other, Frakapor, has around 600 residents. I could go on about how degrading and awful conditions are at these camps, but to be honest, I'm too exhausted right now from having spent all day in them. I promise to have a better updated info page soon. Read my blog for more info.

I'd Rather Be Here Now

Donations here will go 100% directly towards purchasing needed items for refugees locally. There's no shipping, no staff to pay, no bureaucratic red tape. I can withdraw money from my account and pay cash at the discount grocery store here and load up enough sunscreen, soap, womens' sanitary pads or toilet paper to keep people healthy. I've been doing this enough that I know what to buy, how to distribute effectively, and I'm part of an amazing team of helpers- both refugees from the community and volunteers from around the world. We get things done in a dignified and efficient way, and I'm really proud of what we do. 

We do things in large quantities to keep it fair for the whole camp. For example, today I bought 135 plastic wash basins at 2 euros each so that every single family in this camp could have a place to wash their clothes and dishes. If we aren't able to provide enough hats, shoes, socks, or whatever it is for every single person, we wait until we have the funds to purchase the additional stock. In addition to private crowdfunded donations, we receive goods from the large international aid groups like UNHCR and MSF who we partner with to distribute to camp. We distribute every day, and keep in close contact with the community to learn what they really need, rather than us deciding what should be given.

Donations here are also occasionally used for small things that other less flexible funding wouldn't cover. For example, emergency food for a family, transportation, or occasionally just that little humanizing moment. Recently I spent $40 buying gyros, fruit and soda to have a little picnic with a sweet family of 7 who had been sleeping in a city park for a few days following the Idomeni eviction. They hadn't eaten in a while and felt pretty beaten down by the world. I got permission from the army to transport them to a camp in mine and a friend's car, and when we stopped for the picnic lunch by the side of the road, things felt almost normal for an hour. 

Thank you SO much to my previous supporters. I'm usually pretty hard on myself, but I'm proud of the work that my team and I have done here, and I look forward to continuing to do so while in Greece. Thanks for making that possible. I am so appreciative of your support. 

Please email me at [email protected]

Fundraiser Updates

Posted on June 14, 2016

Posted on June 14, 2016

Thank you so much everyone for your incredible support. I'm so sorry that I haven't had the time to reach out to everyone individually as well as I would like to. The past several weeks have been a challenge in many ways. I still don't have concrete thoughts around it all, and I'm leaving Greece feeling unsettled and unfinished. It was difficult to leave knowing how many amazing individuals and families I've gotten to know don't get to leave. I'll remain involved in the crisis, and will possibly return for a stipended position doing the same thing later this autumn. For now though, I'm off for a week of downtime before beginning work in Beijing for several weeks guiding high school service trips.  Thanks again for your support, and please don't stop educating yourself and being engaged in the refugee crisis. Reach out anytime :)

Posted on June 6, 2016

Posted on June 6, 2016

Hello, and thanks so much for your support. My update from Greece is best summarized in my most recent blog post. The situation here is rough... to say the least. 

I'd Rather Be Here Now

Posted on May 11, 2016

Posted on May 11, 2016

Hello Supporters,
I apologize for the lack of updates from me. I'd like to thank you again for your support. Know that I'm constantly motivated and inspired by you- the people who make this all financially and emotionally possible for me!  I've been working on the border of Greece and Macedonia, in a camp of about 10,000 called Idomeni for about a week now. This place has been in the news lately because it's become a symbolic and literal pressure point in the series of closed borders facing refugees. It's tough to condense the experience so far into words, and to be honest, I'm not really letting myself digest it all quite yet. The desperation and frustration here are intense. So is the warmth, hospitality, and connections that I get to participate in. My team, A Drop In The Ocean, does a daily distribution of several hundred non-food items. For example, this morning we passed out about 400 sets of donated kids toothbrushes, toothpaste, tissue packs and wet wipes. I was overseeing the distribution, and also had the two difficult tasks of deciding who was "pregnant enough" or "disabled enough" to get to skip the line, and doing crowd control. At this point I'm used to doing line crowd control (which is mostly chatting with the people bored in line and making sure people don't cut and increase tension). Today's crowd control right at the end got to me a bit, because I was having to push back little kids who were literally screaming for toothbrushes but didn't get one. There is never enough to go around, as much as I wish I could give every little one what they so desperately need. Afterwards I took a few of our helpers from the community out for the falafel sandwiches made in the camp as a thank you, and held a debrief session with the volunteers. Work is intense here, but I'm so happy that we are doing it. Our team tries to maintain as much dignity as possible with distribution, by letting people "shop" as much as time allows, and giving out items that are new or like new. We're constantly invited for tea or dinner in family's tents, and each of us have built these beautiful relationships with refugees we've met in camp. I'm so lucky to get to be here. The stress of police harassment against us, the occasional flare ups of violence in camps, and the emotional difficulty of having to be the 'bad guy' doing crowd control are balanced against the human connections I get to form here. Life is good, despite being amazingly busy, and often in a difficult environment. I've been taking photos but haven't found much time to edit and post them. Follow me on Facebook, if you have it. Otherwise, soon I'll do a blog post. I'm learning a bit of Arabic and Kurdish (and the regulars waiting in line are impressed!), and am sharing a small apartment with six European volunteers also on my Drops team.  Know that your donations are buying items and food locally, directly for refugees, without any bureaucratic red tape and allowing me to stay in this work which I otherwise wouldn't be able to do. I'll be here until June 13th, when I'll start a summer guiding job. There is probably more I should say, but I'm a bit brain dead right now. Thank you so much for your support, and please reach out if you have any questions.   All the best from Idomeni. :) 

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