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Most of us saw the heartbreaking photograph that was circling the internet last fall of a lifeless three-year-old Syrian refugee whose body was found washed ashore on a Turkish beach. He was fleeing from Syria to the Greek island of Lesbos when his boat capsized. That image has been burned into my brain for months. To me, that photograph was more than just a wakeup call to the refugee crisis. It was a call to action.
That is why I am going to Lesbos in March to join volunteers working with the refugees. Last year more than one million refugees reached Europe by sea, with 80% of them landing on Lesbos. These are families, mostly women and children, who are fleeing violence and war in Syria, Afghanistan, and Iraq. Many of them first travel by foot to the coast of Turkey. Once there, they crowd onto substandard inflatable boats, risking their lives in sometimes perilous weather to cross the sea in hopes of reaching Europe. Some boats capsize before they reach the shore. Once these refugees reach Greece, they begin a long and grueling voyage to find a home in Europe. When they arrive on the island, these refugees are in desperate need of humanitarian aid, nourishment, shelter, and often medical support.
I will be volunteering for roughly 9 hours a day for a month, working my hardest to make their transition as smooth as I can. The work I do there may change daily, depending on where help is most needed. Here are a few examples of what I will be doing:
- welcoming refugee boats on the coast with emergency blankets, food, water, and dry clothes
- providing basic first aid
- registering refugees with the coast guard and the United Nations Refugee Agency and organizing them into groups to transport from the beaches to refugee camps
- preparing and serving food at refugee camps
- cleaning up the beach (many refugees leave their life vests and other soaked belongings on the beach)
- laundering refugees’ discarded clothes and redistributing
- sorting donated clothes and supplies
Additionally, in my efforts to raise awareness about the refugee crisis in Europe, I plan on photographing and documenting interactions via social media and this platform in order to decrease the negative stigma refugees have in the United States.
I will be donating my time for the whole month of March, and if you would like to help refugees with me, please help by donating to this campaign. Money donated will help in the following ways:
- Purchasing supplies that I will bring or ship in bulk for the camps (clothing, jackets, hats/gloves/scarves, blankets, sleeping bags, first aid, etc.)
- Purchasing supplies on the island that I will use to aid refugees* (gas, food, water, as well as additional of the above supplies)
- Renting a car, to help with the distribution of supplies between camps and for help transporting refugees from the beach to the transport stations
- Volunteer accommodation for four weeks
Every dollar counts. Even small donations can make a meaningful difference. Just $8 can help save 10+ people from the effect of hypothermia.
While in Greece I will post updates about the situation and where the money you donate ends up.
If you cannot afford to donate, please consider sharing this page so that it can reach as many people as possible.
Thank you so much for your solidarity and support!
*The economy of Lesbos is based mostly on tourism and has been negatively effected by this crisis. Therefore, I will be purchasing the majority of the supplies needed while on the island rather than purchasing them in the states.