Reflections on Athens part 2

7th September 2017


I was too tired to write yesterday when I got home. There is just so much to do for the refugees here and never enough time. It’s clear that there is a lack of funds and volunteers to help as the needs are so great. Many organisations are just getting by week by week, but they make it work with what they have. My hat goes off to the volunteers I have met, who literally work around the clock to try and help in the desperate situation. One of those is Kerrie from Hope Cafe which is one of the projects we are supporting. They were desperate for food supplies and thanks to people’s generosity- our charity was able to fund this shop. We discussed a project that I hope our charity will be able to support which will provide a pack of basic essentials for new born babies and their mothers. I also met with a guy heading a group supporting LGBT refugees. This vulnerable group of people need extra support due to their situation as they see discrimination and difficulties on many levels. I’m hoping that our charity will be able to support their outreach work. It’s amazing to see the small difference we are able to make, and how grateful those in receipt of it are. I’m off to Leros now- the tiny island which sunk under the crisis in 2015 and continues to struggle with it. Arrivals of new refugees have increased since the beginning of August. The hotspot detention camp where they are transferred to is full. I’m looking forward to seeing how we can help more here. But we need your donations to continue to do so. If you can help a little, please check out our fundraising page to find out how.

https://asnteamuk.org/fundraising/

Reflections on Athens

I’m in Greece on a self funded trip visiting the projects we are supporting. My first few days were spent in Athens, and I wrote the following after my first day there. Joel.

Just home and on a bit of a high after an amazing but also very humbling day in Athens. I spent the morning with an inspirational young Syrian man who told me his story which I am going to write up for him. He told me how and why he left Syria, how his father still lives in a town under siege for 3 years now where food is dropped in by air. He told me how he can’t look at photos of his father now as he looks so old, wrinkled and thin. Imagine if the tables were turned and that was you or I. Then it was on to the orange house- one of the projects we support. We went shopping for 3 weeks supplies that thanks to the generousity of our supporters-our charity paid for, and we got it all into the car…. just!  This will provide food for not only the residents but also for people who use the drop in facilities of The Orange House. It was amazing to spend time in The Orange House. To see the children laugh and play- maybe they are too young to understand what they have endured and the hardship their family is going through. The refugee crisis is off our news, but it is still very much ongoing, and arrivals into the Greek islands (which are all well over capacity) have been picking up again over August. If you do something today, spare a minutes thought about someone who had no choice, but to leave their family, their home, their life. No choice but to get into a crammed flimsy rubber boat and head out into the sea at night with nothing but the lights in the distance to guide them, or to stay at home and face certain death. This is real, and it’s happening now. Make a difference- https://asnteamuk.org/fundraising/

Painting the Orange House!

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Anyone who has been involved in teaching or training will know just how important it is to ensure the environment of the classroom is right to make the learning effective.  Well the team at the Orange House recognised this, and we were really pleased to be able to recently fund paint for the classroom to be redecorated.  Its here that a variety of classes are held in various topics for not only the residents, but other refugees who use the venue as a drop in centre. We also provided funding for the living room to be decorated.

Marina who runs The Orange House said how much it needed to be freshened up after a year of tiny hands touching and drawing on the walls!

Its thanks to your support that this was possible.  Thank you.

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The past 7 months…

Thanks to your amazing support, over the past 7 months we have spent over 12 and a half thousand pounds in supporting refugees in Greece. From provisions of food and hygiene items, to vital aid and essential support. From projects to help restore dignity, to medical needs. From clothing, to helping support safe spaces. And we’ve kept our administrative costs to only 3%. You can be confident that if you donate to us, it is having maximum positive impact, and it’s only with your donations that we can continue to do this. You have helped many people through the projects we’re supporting. Thank you from all of us at ASNTeamUK. Why not sign up to our blog on our website to be first to read our updates when published and see where you’re making a difference. http://www.asnteamuk.org 

Update from The Unmentionables 

With the help of ASN Team UK The Unmentionables was able to provide 3,150 pairs of underwear in just one month to two camps in Greece. The first project, a distribution at Souda Camp, on the island of Chios (The Unmentionables’ island distribution hub), combined the provision of underwear with bras, feminine hygiene products and condoms. The conditions in the camp were extreme, the heat overwhelming, and the desperation palpable. When told we were distributing underwear, our team was met with huge smiles, handshakes, and hugs. Each resident in the camp was provided at least one pair (if not more!) of underwear and access to condoms, while women and girls were provided access to feminine hygiene products to cover their menstrual needs for two months. As any one who has set foot in a refugee camp can tell you, while the need is great, the generosity is so much greater. Our team was able to not only distribute dignity providing hygiene products, but also to provide the dignity and humanity of conversation and a cup of tea. Each and every one of our volunteers left Souda with lifelong friends.  
For the Souda distribution, each stage of The Unmentionables’ Smart Aid Model was executed by our incredible volunteers— from in-person needs assessments in three languages within Souda camp, to local purchasing to support the Greek economy (including from our dear friend, Hassan, a Syrian wholesaler living in Greece, who continues to source his products from his home country), to the private and respectful distribution of the products by our team within the camp. Today, the Greek government is in the process of dismantling Souda camp. At present it is housing just 300 residents, while the remainder have been moved to the Vial hotspot, 15km away from the town of Chios, or on to Athens. The Unmentionables is committed to continuing to provide intimate health and hygiene support to refugees and migrants on Chios, no matter the circumstances or camp location.
Additionally, The Unmentionables’ volunteer team had the unique opportunity to organize our largest underwear distribution yet in Eleonas camp (Athens)— 2000 pairs of underwear provided by ASN Team UK donors! Before heading to the Eleonas refugee camp we met with our two underwear suppliers with whom we had agreed to buy the underwear from. A huge part of our Smart Aid model, purchasing underwear from these local businesses not only means we get the best deal, we also support the local economy. Both owners were incredibly hospitable, never willing to let you visit without buying you a coffee or offering some juice. This generosity continued beyond what we’d ever expected. 
On the first day at Eleonas refugee camp we were met by the volunteers with whom we set out a distribution strategy. In a newly built room, we laid out all 2,000 pairs of underwear, including children’s, women’s and mens. Split into pairs, with volunteer from our partner, Project Elea, with each volunteer from The Unmentionables, we filled our trays with a mix of underwear and sun cream. Designated to certain sections of the refugee camp, we then headed off in the early afternoon to begin our distribution. We knocked on every door on our list, taking record of the number of people living in the trailer, who was present and taking the names of those who weren’t to make sure that they could collect theirs on the Friday at the clothing storage. 
Despite language barriers, the simple gesture of pointing towards the basket of underwear and holding up the various sizes always did the trick. We were lucky to have some refugees join us as translators as well as some of the Eleonas volunteers. To most of us, what came as a humbling surprise was how incredibly welcoming and grateful everyone was. The label of refugee clouds the individual characters of each person. While a few people found it a little embarrassing to be offered underwear so openly, the vast majority were thrilled to grab a pair and asked for more than one. So often we were invited for tea, given cold water, fed homemade food or given juice boxes, which we were told was a prized possession in the camp. These wonderful people were so grateful to be given at most one pair of underwear and a bottle of suncream. Even if we didn’t understand each other, they made the sweetest gestures to show their appreciation for something we take so much for granted. 
It took us two days to visit every home as we returned to those where no one was in, on the second day. On the final day, Friday, all those who hadn’t been around when we visited went to the clothing area to pick up their pair. All in all it was a very humbling experience and if there’s one thing we learnt aside from the fact that you can never give out enough underwear, it was that kindness transcends all barriers.

We did it, and funded over 2000 pairs of undies for residents of Eleonas camp!

Thanks to your amazing support and following the success of our recent fundraising campaign, we did it, and were able to fund over 2000 pairs of new underwear for the residents of the Eleonas refugee camp in Athens!  This is such a fantastic achievement, and we can’t thank you enough.

Eleonas camp is one of many in Athens, and is currently home to just over 2000 residents.  Approximately 500 children, 700 women, and 900 men.  Some of the residents here had not had any new underwear for months and now every resident has received a new pair of undies thanks to you.  For us, its hard to think of getting by without the daily essentials that we take for granted, and such a small gesture of a new pair of pants can mean a lot.

Due to restrictions in the camp we were unable to show photos of the distribution so have included some snaps of the volunteer team sorting the underwear in preparation for distribution made possible by The Unmentionables organisation and one of their partners.

There are still so many people needing so much help in Greece alone, and we are striving to reach as many as we can through the projects and initiatives we are supporting.  But this is only possible with your help.  Make a difference to someone today, and check out our fundraising channels to find one that suits you.  Thank you.

Just Giving: https://www.justgiving.com/asn-teamuk

Charity Checkout: https://lsn-uk.charitycheckout.co.uk/

Paypal: Donate with PayPal

From The Orange House

We were touched to receive this lovely message from the team at The Orange House in Athens.

Getting support from a group such as Aegean Solidarity Network Team UK has really made a difference at The Orange House. Being a small group, any help can make a difference and it really has: being able to provide cold water for the visitors of the day centre every day, to provide more quality food, or also fixing the house. The Orange House is always in need of support to continue our efforts toward refugees and we can’t thank Aegean Solidarity Network Team UK enough !

That’s a big pallet!

When Kerri at Hope Café in Athens told us about their urgent shortage of nappies, we jumped straight into action.  This pretty impressive pallet (we didn’t realise it would be so big!), contains over four and a half thousand nappies and bed mats. img_5146

It’s heart wrenching to hear that bed mats are also needed for older children who are wetting the bed due to post traumatic stress.

We try to use local suppliers in Greece for this sort of thing to also help the Greek economy, but some of the teams in the projects we support are so stretched, they struggle to find the time to be able to shop around and negotiate.

Our charity status meant we were able to get these at a heavily discounted rate, and send them at a discounted rate making this cost efficient.  And this means Kerri and her team can focus on providing the 1st class care they do to the refugee community they support.

Following our funding of 1150 pairs of underwear for residents of the Souda camp in Chios, we have just reached the half way point in our campaign to fund over 2000 pairs of underwear for the residents of the Eleonas camp in Athens.  Please help give someone who has lost everything a ray of dignity, and pledge a few pounds if you can. https://www.justgiving.com/campaigns/charity/asn-teamuk/undies

Thank you.

 

We want to buy new undies for the residents of Eleonas camp in Athens

We’ve just launched a campaign to raise £1650 to buy new underwear for the residents of the Eleonas camp in Athens. If we can raise this amount, we will be able to buy new undies for around 1400 adults and 650 children. Please help us and share and donate. The price of a cup of coffee will buy someone a new pair of underwear. Thank you. http://campaign.justgiving.com/charity/asn-teamuk/undies 

What do 1150 pairs of underwear look like?

You may have read from our previous blog that we had provided some funding to The Unmentionables working in Chios, to purchase a bulk buy of underwear for distribution in the Souda camp.  The team obviously had fun on this mission!

u1Step 1.  The team travelled to Athens to make the bulk buy as well as complete some other shopping.  Obviously buying in such bulk meant that there was some room for negotiation on price!  1150 pairs of underwear were bought with the funds we provided from your donations.  This is  AMAZING- THANK YOU!

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Step 2.  The new items all arrived at the warehouse, and were sorted.  The sorting teams at the camps in Greece are the unsung heroes.  Working behind the scenes the often laborious and hard work is vital to aid the smooth running of distribution.

Step 3.  The needs of the individuals and families in the camp were then assessed so they could be provided with items needed.

u6Step 4.  Distribution!  There were lots of happy faces and smiles from the volunteers and residents of the camp when the team went into the camp to distribute the packs they had put together containing new pairs of underwear and other needed items.  The Unmentionables work to help restore peoples dignity by providing much needed hygiene items in discreet ways, and we will be adding them to the projects that we support so we can continue to help them with their vital work.

We urgently need monetary donations so we can continue to support this and the other projects that we work with providing dignity, food, education, hygiene items, accommodation, medical supplies, vital aid amongst other needed things to refugees in Greece.  There are over 60,000 refugees stuck in limbo in Greece, many are desperate, with the clothes on their backs their only possessions and many are still living in horrific conditions in camps.  Its estimated half this number are women and children, and an estimated 2000 children are unaccompanied.

We are making a difference, but can only continue to do so with your support.  We want to make donating as easy as possible for you, so are pleased to be able to offer you some options.  Find out more here https://asnteamuk.org/fundraising/

Thank you.