Personal Post – My Experience in Greece & The Refugee Situation

WARNING: This is a heavy and personal post.

Late Thursday night/early Friday morning (Oct 29/30 2015) two boats full of refugees sank off the coast of two Greek islands. One of the islands was Kalymnos – the island my son Dax, husband Alex and myself are currently vacationing on while rock climbing.

Over 138 people were rescued, however, 14 were confirmed dead (9 of which were children and infants). Many are still missing.

We went climbing yesterday to an area called ‘The Beach.’ It is a half an hours drive away from the main town we are in and another half an hour hike into the beachside climbing area. Once we arrived we found debris everywhere. At first we thought it was just garbage – water bottles, some styrofoam and so on. We then started seeing large pieces of wood, oars, rubber rings, lifejackets and personal items like shoes. We also found a huge, totally destroyed, rubber raft that had been placed over some old rock walls to create a shelter and a fire ring that had recently been used nearby.

This was the place that some of the recent refugees made it to, and also sadly, where some finally lay to rest as their lifeless bodies drifted to shore.

I have been following the ‘Refugee Crisis’ in the media for quite sometime, and of course have been saddened by the events that have been unfolding, however, seeing all the debris left over from the recent sinking and also personal items – especially things like baby shoes and toddler lifejackets, has really brought the crisis straight to my heart.

This picture is one I took near the beach FULL of debris and personal items.

Ring

I was going to take pictures closer up, really showing the vast amounts of debris, but honestly, I was just too upset. Hiking out with Daxy all I could keep thinking was, ‘What would I do if I where in same situation the Syrians and Afghans are in?’

I knew that of course, I would pay 1500-2000+ Euro (whatever it took) to shady people smugglers based in Turkey in an attempt to get myself and my family to safety.

(FYI 1500-2000+ Euro is the going rate right now that the smugglers are charging refugees for the crossing from Turkey to Greece.)

The smugglers are placing refugees in totally unseaworthy and massively overcrowded boats with (often) FAKE lifejackets (filled with paper and not actual foam). If the refugees refuse to board the so-called vessel there have been reports that they are threatened with being fired upon. Once half-way across to Greece the smugglers bail off the death trap refugee rafts and are picked up by high speed boats to get taken back to the safety of Turkey (to ensure they are not arrested by Greek Authorities.)

As soon as I got back home to our little hotel that day from ‘The Beach’ I donated all the clothing and toys we could afford to be without to a local charity serving the surviving refugees waiting to be processed in Kalymnos.

Winter is setting in and many refugees only have the clothes that they came across in, or in many cases, nothing at all. Babies in some camps are being wrapped in garbage bags to keep them warm and to protect them from the weather. The items that are most needed in camps currently are; clothing, hygiene products and basic English books and training supplies (So that the refugees can start to learn English while awaiting a decision as to what European country (eventually) they will be sent to.)

If you have gotten this far in my post I’m sure you want to help too.

Here is what I am doing to help on the ground – I am working with local cafe’s and restaurants that tourist climbers frequent to create donation clothing boxes for tourists to leave items that they wish to give directly to the refugees here on the island. I am also in the process of starting a Go-Fund Me Campaign (however, I may have to wait a week for approval – so alternate donation options below).

I will be raising money for the next two weeks (and beyond) to give directly to those who are aiding the refugees here on the island. I plan to purchase items directly for the camps here with the money raised via Go Fund MePaypal, or direct e-transfer for Canadians (my email for donations is getalifeatsea@gmail.com) and deliver these donations DIRECT to the volunteers helping on the ground.  Items I will be purchasing include things like; diapers, wipes, soap, feminine products etc.

After we depart and head back to Canada I will continue to work to support an organization here, on the island, to send more clothing and support items to the local refugees.

Greece is, as many of you know, struggling in a crushed economy. There are simply not the funds or aid available (from the EU or otherwise) coming in to help where help is needed.

Anything you can donate would be so much appreciated.

Again, if you want to donate TODAY you can donate in 3 different ways

1. Go Fund Me ‘Kalymnos Refugee Fund’

2. Donate via my PayPal the following link paypal.me/GetaLifeatSea

2. E-transfer me (if you are Canadian) to getalifeatsea@gmail.com

Note: All PayPal donations will be easily identifiable from my business transactions.

Thank you for reading my post here and thanks in advance for donating – even 5$ helps!

FYI – To buy a pack of diapers here in Greece is about 8 Euro – a pack of baby wipes is 3-5 Euro.

Again, I will be buying mostly baby items for this crises smallest survivors.

Feel free to like and share this post. Thank you again for reading.

Update Nov 3 2015 

Today we spent the morning shopping for supplies to support the refugees here on the island of Kalymnos. We only spent a small part of everyone’s total donations so far on supplies today as we will be doing more supply runs every 3-4 days for the next 2 weeks while we are here.

We FILLED the car today for 300 Euro with ESSENTIALS that the Immigration and Support Services Centre here on the island informed us that they needed. Things like diapers, wipes, soap, toothpaste, toothbrushes, hygiene products and lots more. 

It was truly awesome!

We delivered the supplies DIRECT to the refugees at the ‘Immigration and Support Services Centre’ here at the Pothia, Kalymnos port area.

We were also able to meet with other locals who are aiding the refugees by housing them in their shops/stores and chat with them about more specific supplies they need currently.

Many refugees here spend about 3-5 days on the island after initially landing by boat from Turkey. They then must wait here for their initial refugee paperwork to be processed before moving on to Kos, then Athens and then finally onwards to other areas of Europe to hopefully finally settle and make a life for themselves.

So far you amazing people have raised $2105.55 Canadian in just under 48 hours!!!!!

My goal initially was $1000. We have crushed that goal and so my new goal now is now $3000 Canadian before we leave the island. I KNOW we can do it!

So if you haven’t donated yet know that you CAN still make a difference in the lives of these refugees direct through me (and Alex and Dax)

To donate go to the Go Fund Me Campaign 

Thank you to ALL who have shared this post, commented and of course donated so far – you are TRULY making a difference in peoples lives right now!

Here is a picture of the supplies we purchased today (with many more trips to come). Please note: We didn’t take pictures of the supplies drop off at the refugee centre as it just didn’t seem appropriate, and quite honestly would have been intrusive (we believe) to the refugees we were interacting with. Thank you for your understanding and thank you in advance for your donation!

Dax and Me Bags

Update Nov 4 2015!

Just got an article posted about what we are doing by Gripped Magazine! Check out the article by clicking on the photo below! 

Note: Any climbers still in Kalymnos who have new or used backpacks to donate can do so at Glaros Snack Bar in Masouri, Kalymnos

Gripped Picture

Update Nov 5 2015

Another great article on our work in Kalymnos by a local online paper from home. Click on the image below for their full story on us.

Revy Mountaineer Logo

Update Nov 6 2015

Update! WOW we are up to total of $4760.55 donated! OMG you guys are Amazing! Alex, Dax and I did another supply run today to the Immigration and Support Services Centre here in Kalymnos. Today we purchased and delivered over 50 backpacks to the centre (we were informed during our last delivery that this is their highest need right now.) We spent the morning going to (and clearing out) 4 different shops of their available backpacks. All the owners were SUPER supportive and gave us a minimum of a 10%-40%+ discount. Some shop owners even threw in additional backpacks for FREE! During today’s run we spent 600 Euro (about $854.60 Canadian). It was awesome to deliver these direct to the centre. It was even better seeing them immediately being handed out to the refugees there. So many people were OVER THE MOON today after receiving their new packs. They came out of the centre and waving them above their heads with huge smiles on their faces. It was a little hard to hold back my tears of happiness to be quite honest. It was such an honour to be witness to making so many, so happy with something so simple. We will be doing another supply run in the next couple of days for the next most needed item currently (shoes). Thanks to everyone who has donated so far! We are so blessed to have so many amazing friends, family and community members 🙂 Here are is a picture of supply purchases we made today and some just awesome shop owners. Again, we didn’t take shots of the refugees at the centre directly as again it just seems super intrusive and insensitive to do so. However, we will try ad take some pictures with one of the centre’s directors on our next delivery.

To donate please go to the following link https://www.gofundme.com/greecerefugees

Nov 9 2015 Update!

We are now up to $5580.55!

Updates for today.

  • Supply run is set for tomorrow for shoe credits and also rain ponchos.
  • I will be doing a periscope today via ScopeDay’s Channel today at 9:30am PST re: The Kalymnos Refugee Fund on my Go Fund Me Page!
  • Check out the below video for a good overview on the European Refugee Crisis and Syria.

Shop Owners Pic for upload

Nov 10 2015 Update

Another supply run and delivery today! We spent 300 Euro buying out the WHOLE local discount shop of ALL of their rain ponchos and then spent another 600 Euro on shoe credits at the discount shoe store near the Immigrant and Refugee Support Centre

Note: Newly arrived refugees are only getting new shoes when they arrive to the island without any at all.

We still have another 2000 Euro or so to spend! We are organizing another couple of supply runs before we head off the island Nov 16th. We will be buying socks, underwear, scarfs and gloves (as instructed by the centre manager) as well as onward ferry tickets for Athens (for the final processing) so that the Kalymnos based refugees can start to make their way onwards to other parts of Europe (most of them at this point want to head to Germany). Tickets from Kalymnos to Athens are about 50 Euro each. The issue here is that only refugees that lose a family member in the initial illegal crossing get a free ticket onwards, thus many here on the island are stuck waiting for a safe way off.

Thanks so much again for your support and for donating and or sharing my posts https://www.gofundme.com/greecerefugees 

Some pictures from today are below. Dax in the Refugee Centre Bunk House (where the women and children are staying now – men are housed near the police centre in abandoned buildings currently) and Alex and Dax with a refugee that intially actually asked Alex if he could get a picture with Dax as he had never seen a child with blonde hair before and really wanted a picture with him (Dax was nearing his nap time so not super happy lol) The last picture is of me and the English Volunteer & Translator at the Centre after we had made our donations today.

Dax Cropped

Cropped me and dax and volunteer

November 13th 2015 #World Kindness Day

Well guys! Our trip is finally coming to a close.

This trip has been many many things to Alex, Dax and myself. It has been warm, beautiful, fun, amazing and adventurous . . . and for the last couple of weeks, pretty intense as well.

In just a week and a half, together with all of you, we raised $5620.55 Canadian!

With this money we were able to purchase a lot of supplies and deliver them DIRECT to the Immigrant and Refugee Centre (Shelter) here on the island of Kalymnos.

In many cases Alex, Dax and I were able to see the supplies, you helped purchase, be immediately handed out directly to the refugees at the shelter.

You provided things like; diapers, wipes, basic hygiene products, backpacks, rain gear, shoes for those who arrive without any, childrens socks and underwear, and most recently, $1400 Euro worth of ferry tickets from Kalymnos to Piraeus (Athens) to be used by local refugees who have survived shipwrecks on the way to Kalymnos from Turkey and have no way of proceeding onwards to their desired areas of Europe where they hope to one day settle.

I am so thankful to all of you for liking, sharing, and to many of you, for donating to the cause.

I am still amazed and floored by the immediate and so so so generous offerings made by so many family, friends and community members.

Thank you for allowing me and my family to help here on the ground in Greece.

It has been a blessing to not only directly help the refugees here but also to support the local Kalymian people, and thus the local Greek economy, that has been so detrimentally affected over recent months.

Thank you again and again from the bottom of my heart.

We spent the morning yesterday delivering our latest batch of supplies (bags and bags of warm children socks and underwear).

We also went to a variety of ticket agents near the port to purchase the credits for refugee ferry tickets mentioned above.

The picture below of me & Nina (Founder of the Refugee and Support Centre here on Kalymnos) buying refugee ferry tickets.

Cropped Tickets

Thank you all so much again for being a part of this.

As an FYI: I am keeping The GoFund Me account open for anyone who wishes to still donate as I will be able to make purchases from Canada for ferry tickets for future survivors of sinkings off of Kalymnos.

Also, if you want to know more about the Refugee and Support Group here on Kalymnos feel free to join their group and see ALL the amazing work they are doing here on the island.

November 26th, 2015 Update

Gripped Magazine did another follow up piece on our work in Greece. Please feel free to click on the picture below to read the full article.

Gripped Pictures

February 5th, 2016 Update

Another re-publication of Alex’s Story on our time on the island of Kalymnos, Greece.

Please feel free to click on the picture below to read the full article.

Revelstoke Mountaineer Picture Follow Up Story

I will close this post with a quote from Desmond Tutu 

“Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world”

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