Joel – Chair of Trustees
When I returned to Leros in September 2015 for my annual 2 week holiday, and to see friends, I had been told of the refugee crisis on the island. However nothing could have prepared me for the reality of the apocalyptic scenes that I found there. I must have stood aghast for a while in disbelief when I first set eyes on the conditions in the port police yard. Moved by the overwhelming desperation of the people I had to do something, so spent the mornings and evenings helping out at the camp. My experiences in those 2 weeks changed my life. What really struck me was how before I got there, I had no idea of the reality of what was actually going on in the crisis, as the seriousness and critical state of the crisis had not been made known to us clearly in the UK via the media. It seemed crazy that in civilized Europe-the governments did not seem to be able to provide sufficient care, and it was, and still is in many many cases – the solidarity networks and groups plugging the gaps in care. So when I got back to the UK, I started a facebook page to try to raise awareness of the situation and led some successful crowdfunding campaigns to raise money for the Leros Solidarity Network, and their response to the crisis. In Summer 2016, the ASN Team of Trustees came together. We thought we could do more to help, so broadened how we supported refugees, and we applied to the UK Charity Commission and received our official charity status in December 2016. What I have learned over the past couple of years is that the situation is constantly evolving and can change dramatically, and quickly. Our charity is positioned in a way that means we are able to adapt and respond promptly to changes, and at the same time make a positive impact to the lives of refugees in Greece in various ways and through sponsorship of a variety of projects, and initiatives. Please continue to support us, I have been honoured to see the difference that we are making and its amazing. Many of the refugees I have encountered are the most genuine, kind, warm and generous people I have ever met, and are so grateful for the support of people like yourselves. Thank you.
Yas – Trustee
I’d been watching the unfolding of the “Arab Spring” for 2 years. I have friends in the region and was worried for their welfare. The scale of the refugee crisis that hit in 2014 was a shock. I knew people were fleeing, but just couldn’t get my head around the scale, the number of people and the sheer loss of…well everything they were experiencing. I was desperate to help in some way, to use my skills to best benefit the people needing to flee. I saw what the Aegean Solidarity Network Team UK (well, Joel was the Aegean Solidarity Network Team UK at the time!) was doing and knew I wanted to get involved. They are all about projects that look to support the long term need of refugees who can’t go home, to make them feel wanted, needed and valuable. The Aegean Solidarity Network Team UK provides a human response to the crisis which is why I decided to become a part of it.
Denise – Trustee
I have volunteered for ASN since November 2015. My first trip was to Leros for 2 and 1/2 months from November 2015 to January 2016 when I volunteered in the refugee camp in Leros. I did all sorts of work on the camp from providing support and comfort to refugees, to cleaning, cooking, buying necessary items for refugees just to name but a few. Since then I have been back out to Leros on my leave from my regular job to help out at Pikpa and Villa Artemis. At the moment I have embarked on a small project to collect much needed toiletries to send over to Greece for distribution amongst the people needing help. It’s become a big part of my life and I just want to do what I can to help these people who have been through the horrors of conflict.
Nicola – Trustee
I am Nicola. I am a stay at home carer for my twin autistic teenage sons. One sleepless night on Facebook, I was impressed by the efforts of some young mums in Shropshire who had started collecting clothes for Calais refugees.
I offered to collect for my town of Ludlow and to take a greater interest in the the refugee crisis and what help could be given by ordinary people. This led to collecting and sending out much needed clothes and hygiene items to a variety of places,. I then also undertook several volunteering trips to Leros, Greece and Piraeus which helped to reaffirm my involvement . I also am a volunteer for Refugee Action , supporting Syrian families who have been resettled in the UK. Occasionally I do slideshow talks for groups and schools in my local area.
What motivated me to become involved? An unbearable sense of sadness that there is such division between the haves and the have nots, and how fragile our ivory towers are. This could be me, my family, my friends, my neighbours scrabbling to safety or to the next meal or floor to sleep on. How would I like others to treat me and the ones I love? I got involved because I was able to. Why wouldn’t I?
The ethos of ASN-Team UK, helping local grassroots voluntary groups is one I wholeheartedly endorse.