...because with time on my hands I couldn't think of a more worthwhile cause
26.09.2015 - 27.09.2015 20 °C
So with visa drama meaning that I couldn't leave the country just yet, or process my key visas for another two weeks, I finally committed to do something that I've been wanting to do since I saw the refugee crisis unfold- help in some way (because like it or not getting angry/upset whilst watching the news doesn't improve the situation). So I took to the Internet and applied to be a volunteer for METAction (a Greek NGO) and fly to Greece to help on the small island of Lesvos, which has been widely reported as being in desperate need to volunteers with hundreds or thousands of refugees arriving by small dingey boat everyday, with resources stretched to the max. I left London Friday evening and hopped on a plane.
There was something quite odd about getting on a plane to an area you know is in complete crisis and being surrounded by holiday makers off to the same place. I'm not judging those people as many of us have been on holiday to countries where there is some form of 'issue' ongoing (I've been to Eygpt for one). I think it's the proximity of the crisis/holiday resorts that makes it so jarring - some holidaymakers are going to be sunbathing on the beach, literally just yards from where a boat of refugees will land in desperate need.
Coming into land I looked out of the window. You'd have no idea from the sky that the beautiful small island below was the centre of hundreds of boat landings and thousands of stranded refugees. The only thing I could see that gave some indication were blobs of orange on beaches, which are piles of life jackets.
The next day, I was picked up by one of the local co-ordinators and went for dinner with everyone from METAction and a few UN employees who work together. They were all incredibly friendly and taught me some Greek whilst we drank oozo and ate some amazing salads. The group consisted of interpreters of many languages, Guardians (who escort unaccompanied minors) and local co-ordinators. METAction have been in Lesvos since January. At that stage they were receiving and registering around 700 refugees a month. By August that number had swelled to 60,000 and they were working 24 hours in order to keep everything moving. During the meal they did find it very funny that I didn't want ice cubes (as it wasn't bottled water and I didn't want to risk being ill), given the conditions of the camp I was going to be in the next day!
I was dropped off in my hotel and would be picked up at midday the next day. At that stage it was unclear exactly what I was going to be doing, but I made it clear that I was happy to get stuck in doing whatever was needed. I'm looking forward to getting stuck in and helping.