Hermie, the Aid Van: In March 2016, we spent several days working at the Elliniko warehouse, located at the site of the 2004 Olympic Games. We learned that while the former basketball stadium served as a massive holding space for supplies sent from around the world to aid refugees, very little left the warehouse. In eight days, we fundraised for and purchased a van now driven daily from the warehouse to various camps and squats throughout Greece. Not only did we act swiftly and meet a critical need, we kept our donors and supporters informed and involved every step of the way, which has since become a pillar of our organization.
SunSafe: Thousands of refugee families are living in camps located throughout Greece with little to no shade. Many are forced to stand in the sun for hours waiting for supplies, water, and food. As temperatures begin to rise, these vulnerable families and children are at an even higher risk for sunburn, heat exhaustion and dehydration. A small bottle of sunscreen, a sunhat and a pair of flip flops can go a long way to helping families care for themselves – an invaluable gift to someone who has been stripped of virtually every sense of independence. In July 2016, we collected and distributed nearly 1,000 SunSafe kits each containing sunscreen, flip flops, a hat and sun safety information at several camps just outside Athens.
UndieFund: In mid-August, we launched “UndieFund,” an initiative to bring hundreds of adults and children new, clean underwear. Aside from underwear being a basic piece of clothing, the lack of access can cause health concern in camps where clean water can be scarce and living conditions are far from sanitary. Our goal was to collect 1,000 pairs of new underwear and 500 new or gently-used bras. We nearly doubled that goal in six weeks and were able to distribute enough undies for every resident at three camps to receive three pairs each (a total of 2250 pairs of underwear.)
Give Warmth: Winter in Greece is cold, often freezing, which means the 63,000 refugees currently stuck living there in tents were in dire need of coats, hats, gloves and clean, dry socks. The Give Warmth campaign aimed to collection 1,000 hats, 1,000 gloves, and 1,000 pairs of socks for distribution at refugee camps in lesser-served Northern Greece. We ended up delivering well over 1,000 pounds of aid during distribution trips in November and December 2016. In response to an extreme freeze in January, we raised over $5000 in an emergency appeal for winter boots for the island of Lesvos, where refugees are stuck living in tents after the camps were disbanded.
Bring.Buy.Build: Throughout spring and summer of 2017, we are focused on creating sustainable infrastructure in our partner camps. The goal is to give refugees the opportunity to better care for themselves and support their families through access to fresh food and vegetables, and a place to cook. These things can go a long way toward fostering a sense of community and normalcy. We have partnered with a camp in northern Greece and will provide the funding and volunteers to create both a small community kitchen and several raised garden beds. We will be supplementing this work with the donation of fresh foods to this camp and others, and continuing our aid delivery, focusing on much-needed underwear and contraception.