I’m on my way home from two weeks volunteering in Greece. Because on picturesque Samos island there’s a dark, cold, cramped Refugee Camp that’s home to 4,500 men, women and children. With space for only 650 people in the official, purpose-built camp, everyone else is left to live out each day and night in no more than a tent on the hillside.
In this ‘overspill’ there are no facilities, no toilets or showers, nowhere to cook, no lights or heating. It’s home to families, pregnant women, people suffering war injuries, teenage kids travelling alone…. everyone. One woman is pregnant with triplets.
I was in Samos as a hands-on volunteer and to see our awesome Donate4Refugees’ partners in action on-the-ground.
So, throughout the two weeks, I worked in the aid distribution ‘free shop’, in the warehouse and did on-camp distributions, manned the laundry, helped in the community centre and went to help with kids activities on the camp. I helped paint and build shelves for a new Education Centre, opening soon.
On Samos, I found amazing human spirit and resilience amongst the very worst of poverty. What else do you call it when people have no homes, no lighting, no electricity, no food, no basic hygiene? Yet, somehow they live. They find hope and find strength and I believe 100% that’s in part because volunteers are there showing the simplest of kindness and humanity in an otherwise dark and hostile Europe. A friendly smile, trust, kindness… Not to mention being almost the only people helping camp residents access their basic daily needs. Whilst I was there we gave out women’s clothes, underwear and sleeping bags, pushchairs and baby carriers and kids clothes. Whilst on-camp work was done to replace falling down tents, add tarpaulin and clean litter.
At Donate4Refugees we support several of the critical groups on-the-ground, helping to cover building rents and vehicle costs as well as funding direct aid like clothes and tarpaulins. We believe in working together supporting each other so that we can have the biggest impact on our limited resources. This has meant we’ve touched the lives of 10,000’s people since we started in 2016. We couldn’t be more proud of our achievements.
If volunteering is something you can do, then don’t hold back! All you need is at least two weeks’ (minimum duration varies by an organisation), be self-funding (low budget), have an open heart, and be willing to work hard! Then you’ll be inspired by the refugees you meet and by the volunteers – both community and international – that you work alongside.
If you can’t volunteer, then please make a donation. Every penny counts and you will help make such a big difference in this humanitarian crisis on our doorstep.
I’ve left a piece of my heart in Samos. I’ll be back again soon.