Lesvos Refugee Crisis : How Can I Help?

One of the most common questions I get asked is ‘How can I help?’. Whether in a financial sense or a physical one there are so many ways to help, here are just a few:

Providing Financial Support

For many it is not possible to take the time out and come to Lezvos, instead it is more practical to send financial support. There are so many amazing groups and individuals on this island, and we all survive off support and donations. I cannot tell you who is best to support, but I can certainly outline a few options that are close to my heart:

Supporting me: At this stage I intend to spend three months here in Lezvos, but It could end up being more. I have to work freelance to support myself and cover the costs of living whist I provide the help and support that I am giving here. Of course it can be exhausting and hard work to juggle that, so I have set up a fund that anybody can donate to. It helps with the bare-bones basics of living here in Lesvos and means I can have more free time to commit to being out on the beaches, helping around Pikpa and generally working here as much as I can without the stress and pressures of having to also make ends meet. You can support me by visiting https://www.youcaring.com/anna-mcphee-483663

Supporting Worldwide Tribe: The worldwide tribe is a beautiful group of people who are heavily involved in Pikpa. Everybody I have met from this group has been just stunning. They say “The Worldwide Tribe has been focusing on bringing a human perspective to the refugee crisis currently sweeping Europe. Jaz and the team have been living in the refugee camp in Calais, France, known as ‘The Jungle.’ ” Now they have diversified past just Calais, and I work closely with a few amazing members of this team on a daily basis. You can support the Worldwide Tribe by visiting https://mydonate.bt.com/fundraisers/theworldwidetribecorefunding1

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Supporting Pikpa: PIKPA is an open refugee camp in Mytilene, Lesvos. This is where I live and spend a majority of my time working.  It is a self-organised, autonomous space run by volunteers and is built on the principle of solidarity. Pikpa opened three years ago and is now a growing and evolving camp in response to the dynamic nature of the refugee crisis on the island.. To donate to Pikpa directly, go to : http://lesvossolidarity.org/index.php/en/donate-en/financial-donations

Sending Donated Goods

Donated goods here are both a blessing and a curse. We wouldn’t be able to do what we do without so many generous donations, however being sent the wrong things and/or in a completely disorganised fashion takes up a huge amount of our volunteers precious time. I whole-heartedly encourage people to send over donated goods, but please, please, make sure they are appropriate, needed and sent to the right place.

Middle eastern refugees trekking across Europe in the middle of winter do not need high heels, business suits or summer dresses. Nor do they need clothing with offensive or suggestive slang. Clothes that are dirty or broken aren’t useful either. Aside from those (hopefully) obvious things, which we receive so, so much of, there are also specific things that we just don’t need any more of. Some things that are desperately needed across the island are:

  • Shoes, particularly mens.
  • Soft trousers/trackpants for men, women and children
  • Socks

Please don’t send unsolicited donations, many warehouses such as Pikpa just do not have any more warehouse space, and struggle to find places to put the boxes of things that turn up on our doorstep in the mornings. Make contact first to ensure your donations will be needed and welcome. Please do take the time to get in touch with a group or organisation individually and find out their needs before sending anything. 

Giving Your Time Here

If you are lucky enough to be able to get over here and give your time in person then there is so much support to help you do so. Here on Lesvos, as well as the islands of Chios and Samos, the kind of work needed ranges from the front-line beach rescue all the way through to translating, warehouse sorting, cooking, refugee processing and everything in between. Worried you aren’t skilled enough? Don’t be. The main thing is a willingness to work and a ton of compassion, the rest will fall into place when you arrive. Get yourself on this Facebook group and read this document all the way through. More questions?

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But I don’t have any skills like you – what can I do?: Everything and anything. There is so much need here, as long as you are happy to be proactive and hardworking there will always be a need for you.

Will accommodation be provided? What’s it like?: Short answer, No. Yes of course there are exceptions, if you have particular skills or make a long term commitment to a particular place or group, they may have a spare bed somewhere. But don’t rely on it. If you are here to save money then you will be sharing a room. If you are room sharing, expect to pay between 5-10 Euro per night. For your own space or a nicer hotel, 20-30 euro per night. Of course the prices go up from there, and there are plenty of nice facilities around if budget accommodation is not an issue. Check out Lesvos Accommodation Sharing Facebook group for room share, or Booking.com and AirBnB for hotels and other accommodation options.

Is English spoken?: Yes. In varying amounts by different people, but certainly enough to get by with no Greek knowledge. Of course it is a great cultural experience and polite to learn some Greek, but you absolutely don’t have to.

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Where am I most needed?: If you are still asking this, you can’t have read the document yet. Regardless, there is no answer. The needs change daily and everywhere needs something. Translators and Medical professionals are needed everywhere. If you are around Mytelini then Better days for MoriaPikpa or No Borders Kitchen are all good places to start . You can also just wing it – turn up on the island and see whats happening, there will always be work for you to do somewhere.

Any other questions: If you still have questions not covered in the document, you can always email me or comment on this blog post and I will get back in touch ASAP

Building Awareness

Building awareness is so important. It wasn’t until I started researching Lezvos, and really until I got over here myself, that I realised how little the world knows about this situation. Talk about this! Next time you are out for dinner or visiting a friend, bring it up. Share my blog posts on your social media, and follow me on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. Write your own blog posts if you can. There are so many ways to build awareness and tell these stories, if you need any help or encouragement just email me.

Other Ideas?

Talk to me! I am interested to work and collaborate from here on all kinds of things. My goal is to alleviate suffering, raise awareness and tell the stories that need to be told. If you have any ideas, suggestions, or want to somehow work with me to create something amazing, please let me know. Emailing anna@annamcphee.net is the most reliable way to get in touch with me.

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