|Refugee families arriving at the Moria camp on Lesbos.|
Photo by Ashley Anderson
As border crossings become tighter or less restricted and as weather and other conditions change, the routes taken by these refugees and migrants are constantly in flux, making it difficult to direct aid where it's most needed. This is especially true in places such as Lesbos, where unpaid volunteers are shouldering much of the load due to what appears to be a vastly insufficient response from large aid agencies and governments.
During the four days I spent on Lesbos, I met some of these devoted volunteers and learned about the challenges they face and the needs they are trying to help meet, including hunger and a lack of shelter among refugees, and difficulties coordinating and building capacity for the emergency response. I worked with a small group of independent volunteers dedicating to filling the humanitarian gaps on Lesbos in order to direct funds where they are most needed now.
The money so generously donated by friends, family, and complete strangers has been used to purchase:
- 100 rain ponchos to be distributed during the next rainstorm to people without warm clothes and shelter
- 30 tents, which refugees will take with them as they continue their long journey in increasingly wintry conditions
- Ingredients for a hearty breakfast for around 350 people, many of whom have been eating at most one meal a day
- Four crates of apples distributed at the port area to children and others who have very little fresh fruit in their diet
- Five industrial-size cooking pots that are being used to prepare and serve two additional meals per day to chronically underfed refugees on the island
|Two of the new cooking pots being used to prepare and |
serve additional meals to refugees on Lesbos
If you want to aid refugees elsewhere in Europe, the crowdsourced RefugeeMap.com is a fantastic resource for up-to-date information on where, and what kind of help, is most urgently needed, both in terms of donations and volunteers.
No matter how dedicated and well-funded, however, volunteers can't -- and shouldn't -- do it alone. Dozens of volunteer groups that have been helping refugees across Europe have come together to "call on all the governments of Europe to act immediately and decisively to alleviate the situation." You can support their #europeact open letter by calling, emailing, or visiting your elected officials and asking them, "What are you going to do to prevent suffering and death among refugees?"
Other recommended ways to donate to Lesbos:
Buy items needed by refugees arriving on the island through an Amazon.com registry created by Lesbos residents and longtime volunteers Eric and Phillipa Kempson
Help fund the Migrant Offshore Aid Station, a search and rescue charity that has been saving refugees' lives in the Mediterranean and is launching a new rescue mission in the Aegean
Help Proactiva Open Arms expand their team of volunteer lifeguards, who are helping refugees disembark safely as they arrive on Lesbos and another Greek island, Chios
Support a Greek NGO providing interpreter services on the islands to help register asylum applications and escort unaccompanied minors from detention centers to proper accommodation facilities
Other volunteer groups working on Lesbos:
Starfish Foundation - Help for refugees in Molyvos
Full series of posts on refugees and relief efforts on Lesbos: