We are asked many times by our blog readers and supporters how they can help the refugees on Samos. Last year the biggest need was for clothes and shoes, as well as pampas and milk for the babies and young children. Many responded and we had stuff arriving from all over the place. Along with the money we were given it helped us buy hundreds of summer shoes as well as becoming probably the biggest buyers of pampas on Samos!
This summer the priority has been on money so we can respond immediately and practically as soon as the refugees land on the beaches and when they get to one of the two ports on the island. On the north coast in particular we are often able to get biscuits and water to many of the refugees immediately they land and also to transport, especially the young families to the ports. Once at the ports we often provide fruits and drinks and in some instances meals and very often sandwiches. As some of you will know it is not easy to change money in Karlovassi so people go hungry for lack of euros. We and others like us do what we can to make sure that this does not happen.
Having a source of money allows us to be flexible and more capable of responding to daily challenges. Take Friday for example, we drove over in the early afternoon to the Camp where refugees other than the Syrians are incarcerated whilst they are being processed. We hadn’t been for some time as we were mainly in Karlovassi. The camp is always gut churning with refugees behind the steel wire fences. But it was not so stressed as it has been and we were told that they needed some basic medicines. We had just left the camp when we came across five young Syrian men walking down from the mountain. Where were they coming from? They told us that they were part of a big group of 150 who had landed earlier that day in a remote and desolate part of the island. They had walked for 6 hours without food and water across the mountains by the coast. All the rest they had left up at the monastery on the mountain. Although they reckoned around 40 of them were still stuck in the forest and now there was a fire. They weren’t sure how many were injured but they said one of the young Syrian men had died falling off a cliff.
We immediately abandoned the pharmacy run and filled the jeep with bottles of water and rushed back up the mountain. All of it went to the refugees at the monastery. They were utterly exhausted. They had been terrified. Many of them had destroyed their shoes on the rocks. Down again we went to the town to fill the jeep with more water and food and this time we went to the forest where there were about 40 refugees with the firemen and paramedics. Then back to the monastery and then back to the town for shoes. We told the police that there was no way that many of the refugees could walk down to the town and that they must send a bus. The policeman who passed by the monastery returning from the fire said a bus would be sent once its wheel had been mended. He couldn’t say when. The bus never came and in the end many walked down to Vathy whilst we were able to carry the young children, babies and parents.
We spent around 400 euros on this afternoon and evening. Fortunately we took enough money with us – you never know what you will find at the camp. The point for us is that by having the money we could intervene directly and practically. This is what we do with the money so many of you send us.
The doors of the monastery never opened. The monks inside did nothing.