For our fellow Dems Abroad who’ve asked how they can help so here are some links to the groups on the front lines. This series began on Jan 11, 2016 this is the first of a five part series. The series is divided up by the location of the services, so Lesvos volunteer organisations are found in the first 3 postings, The fourth posting is for Kos and the fifth one presents volunteer organisations in Athens and Piraeus.
By Stacey Harris-Papaioannou
By Stacey Harris-Papaioannou
A sea of separatism between Europe and not-Europe is present in the 6 mile crossing from the Turkish coastline to the closest Greek border on the island of Lesvos. The human flood of refugees fills the channel daily. When weary travelers, soaked by the salty sea, seeking solace and safety, set foot on dry land, they find generosity on the ground in Greece. In the land that invented the notion of hospitality to foreigners, philoxenia, remains alive and well on the shores of Greece as more than a million asylum seekers have crossed into Europe in 2015. From the islands in the Aegean to the port of Piraeus to the northern border town of Idomeni, taking care of these fragile travelers has been the incentive that has created more than a hundred groups of volunteers, large and small, to soften the harsh journey. While European governments bicker acrimoniously about borders and migration, Greeks, weak from teetering on the precipice of economic collapse for more than 6 years, have opened arms, hearts and homes to men, women and children who can no longer live in their own countries.
Generosity is not an institution that is mandated. It grows from the hearts of the empathetic and the compassionate. Ad hoc groups have sprung up throughout Greece and Europe to assist where governments have failed. Their kindness and chutzpah have put them in the center of the human flood on the ground in Greece transforming their generosity of spirit into dry clothing, good walking shoes, a warm meal, a back-pack of basic toiletries, warm gloves, on-line and printed guides to help lead the asylum seekers to being properly registered and vetted. Who are these extraordinary groups and what are they doing and how can we support them?
Sensitive souls instinctively feel a call to action. What can be done to help? The majority of these groups are requesting monetary donations at the present time and able volunteers. At the present moment gathering used products-clothing, baby apparatus, etc-to be shipped makes no sense. There is certainly not the manpower to sort it or facilities to store it. It is much better to make a financial contribution, giving the volunteer organizations the ability to purchase supplies locally. They infuse the Greek economy and they buy what is actually needed as it is needed.
And for those who are considering giving of themselves on the front line, a qualified volunteer means several things; having language capabilities, enduring long days of physically demanding work in all kinds of weather, having a useful skill, working effectively as a team member and being self financing.
Listed below are a few of these amazing groups, Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), that have banded together to support refugees.
These will be coming out here in batches.
On The Islands: Lesvos, Kos
For our fellow Dems Abroad who’ve asked how they can help, links to the groups on the front lines.
Help for Refugees in Molyvos
Founded by Melinda McRostie, the owner of Captain’s Table restaurant in Molyvos, Starfish hands out food and clothing to refugees and helps refugees with logistics at transit camps. Starfish began in 2014 as a collection of local individuals and international volunteers working together to support refugees arriving in Molyvos. Starfish has grown ever since and registered as an NGO in October 2015. Refugees arriving on the island receive a warm welcome, food, water, dry clothes, shelter, information and access to medical support. They also support refugees to access transport to Mytilene where they can access papers for onward travel.
Hellenic Post Office of Kalloni, C/O Starfish Foundation 81107 Kalloni, Lesvos GREECE
Donations: IBAN: GR4001104070000040700115500 BIC: ETHNGRAA ASTERIAS
National bank of Greece Mythymna Makres, Mythymna 81108 Lesvos
Dirty Girls Lesvos
When the refugees arrive on Lesvos in unstable, overcrowded boats, they are drenched with sea water. They are given new clothes and their perfectly good, but wet clothes, are discarded and have mostly been trashed, therefore adding to the environmental problems of landfill on Lesvos. Dirty Girls of Lesvos collect the clothes which are laundered commercially. They are sorted and distributed so that they can be reused. The project can cost up to €800 per day on laundering the clothes that refugees have to discard when they arrive wet from their dangerous boat trip from Turkey.
€100 will mean that 150 warm jackets for children can be collected, washed and redistributed to keep 150 children warm as the weather is cold during the day and very cold at night.
€40 will mean that 100 people will have clean dry socks to exchange for their wet socks.
Part 2 to follow..
Thanks to The Athens Centre for this photo
Looking back and looking forward - January, the month named for the two-faced god who looked both back and ahead.
2016: Stress Not! Only Do!
For many DAGR members, 2015 has been difficult year though it promised much. For others, it has been worrisome, depressing. For our host country, Greece, the year that’s just ended has given rise to great efforts as well as deep disappointment when results were less than hoped for.
And yet, faced with the massive influx of conflict and economic refugees -- the greatest humanitarian crisis in recent decades – Greeks rose to the challenge with compassion and determination that has impressed the world. Many of our Democrats Abroad members have been directly involved in this rescue effort.
Today, we begin a new year and we return some of our attention to the crucial US elections ahead. The Republican candidates, so far, have been farcical at best. The Democrat race, the pundits have assured us, is no race. It’s a done deal. Stay home; don’t bother!
But here, on the frontlines of human misery, we know better. We know that the presidential candidate and his or her policies will impact lives and fortunes all over the world. We know that control of Congress is crucial to carrying on a sane, restorative platform. We know that winning races at the state level can mean the difference between enfranchised voters or a new Jim Crow.
DAGR has been preparing for the struggle ahead. Our monthly Newsletter goes scrolling – easier now for mobile devices -- on the new DA website at www.democratsabroad.org. Articles linking local concerns to stateside and global issues will be posted as they break and linked to our Facebook and Twitter activity.
Throughout January, our phone volunteers will be calling every DAGR member. We’ll remind you that Americans abroad now have to register to vote every year. Do it now!
The call verifies our members as eligible to vote in the Global Presidential Primary (on March 6 here in Greece). The membership count also determines DA strength at the Democratic National Convention in July and amplifies our voice with elected officials.
After March, we march on … to November. There is much to do and we urge you to get involved. Volunteer or contribute to support the effort. Get back in touch with like-minded friends and help make 2016 a year that changes the course of history. For the better!
With warmest wishes for the New Year,
Karen Lee and Steve Medeiros
DAGR Chair and Vice Chair, 2015-17
Welcome to Democrats Abroad Greece!
DAGR is the official country committee for US Democrats living in Greece. From the Lefka Ori to Rodopi, from Argostoli to Alexandroupoli, our members are engaged, informed and active both in community life here and in American politics.
Find out about our chapters in Athens or Thessaloniki or get in touch with an At-Large representative if you live outside a chapter area.
Watch this space for upcoming announcements of meetings and events - we have events planned throughout the year and encourage anyone interested to take part or pitch in.
If you have questions or would like to help with Democrats Abroad in Greece please contact us.
Anastasia Harris-Papaioannou, Chair Democrats Abroad - Greece
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