Refugee Emergency Assistance & Solidarity in Chios, Greece
Organized by: Huwaida Arraf
Huwaida Arraf via Crowdrise
December 12, 2015
Some of you may know that we have been in Chios, Greece for the last week working alongside some dedicated volunteers to provide practical support and solidarity to the hundreds of refugees daily arriving on the shores of this small island, having made harrowing journeys in search of safety and security for themselves and their families; journeys that are no where near over. Most of the sea journeys are made at night, when it's cold and completely dark, in order to avoid detection. All of the refugees get out of the water cold and wet; for the lucky ones, it's only their bottom half that is soaked, but for others it's worse as some of these overcrowded dinghies regularly capsize. One woman told me that when they got close to the shore, the smuggler started throwing the children overboard to get them off the vessel quickly so he could turn around and go back to Turkey. Even though the children are wearing life jackets, it can be so cold here at night. Imagine the terror of a small child being tossed into the cold sea in the dark...
We are volunteering with a great Norwegian organization called "A Drop in the Ocean," which is working alongside some pretty amazing local people and groups to try to meet the boats (dinghies) when they come in and give people some dry articles of clothing and something to eat. However, we do not always spot all of the boats coming in and many refugees end up making their way, walking about 5 to 6 miles while cold and wet, to this old, abandoned warehouse where they are supposed to get registered. Although this “Registration Center” is run by a reputable refugee organization, the situation there is dismal. They do not give out food, only water and sometimes some biscuits. They do not have any kind of heating. They barely distribute blankets (UNHCR blankets are selectively distributed very late at night), and the closet they have with donated dry clothes always seems to be closed! We see a lot of the kids barefooted (having taken off their wet shoes and socks) and again, it's very, very cold. While there is a place up the road for people to go buy food, some people do not have money because they paid all they had to the smugglers and/or their belongings were lost at sea. The thing that we are asked for the most is blankets so parents can try to keep their kids warm on the cold, concrete floor, but also food, baby formula and diapers, none of which is being provided to people at the Registration Center and camps where the refugees are staying until they are processed and can continue.
We are under no illusions that we can do too much in the short time that we have left here, but we nevertheless wanted to reach out to friends and family to see if you might want to help us buy some of the aforementioned items to distribute and maybe some small toys for the scared, often sick, and traumatized children. 100% of the money collected will be used to buy blankets, warm clothes, socks, baby formula, diapers, toys, as well as some food for those families that we notice do not have money to buy their own. Any money that we have left over when we leave, we will give to A Drop in the Ocean and/or the local church, which has organized a network of volunteers along the coast to meet boats as they come in and provide people with a smile, solidarity and some dry clothes. They will, of course, be continuing this vital work, as long as it is needed and they have support.
Huwaida, Adam, Diyaar & Mayaar