You know those friends who go on extended European holidays and make you insanely jealous by posting photos on Facebook of gorgeous Paris streetscapes and Polish beer? That’s been my feed from Sarah Clifford for the past couple of months. The pictures changed when she arrived in Greece and found the heartbreaking flood of refugees housed in camps, escaping from conflicts in Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Eritrea and elsewhere. This is Sarah’s story of volunteering at Moria Refugee Camp in the middle of her holiday.
So, I am currently volunteering with refugees on the little island of Lesvos, Greece. After reading so much about the migrant/refugee crisis in Europe while traveling here, I really wanted to help. I am working with Better Days for Moria a group of volunteers working to improve conditions outside the Moria transit and registration refugee camp.
Due to the worsening conflict in Syria, the number of migrants and refugees travelling to Europe has skyrocketed with more than 1 million entering the EU last year, almost 90% through Greece.
Migrants travel to Greece by boat from Turkey, usually smuggled on small overcrowded dinghies. Since the start of this year, more than 100,000 migrants have already entered Greece (more than the population of the island of Lesvos). This is an unprecedented humanitarian crisis.
A number of NGOs and other volunteer organisations are now assisting those arriving in Lesvos but they are overwhelmed and there is little coordination. As the Moria camp is usually filled to capacity, many people must camp in tents outside. Better Days for Moria provides food, information, tents and donated clothing to the refugees. There is also a medical team.
I am working in clothing distribution, mainly assisting refugee women and children by providing them clothes and basic hygiene and baby care items. Some families arrive having lost everything, many arrive wet from the boats, countless arrive looking traumatised from their ordeal. There are a lot of children.
I have finished each of the last five shifts utterly exhausted (it has taken 3 days to write this!), but it is incredibly rewarding to be able to restore a little bit of dignity and comfort to people who often have been through so much. And the hugs are also very nice!
To donate or find out more about BDFM: www.betterdaysformoria.com