I'm off to Samos to volunteer for a fortnight at the women's centre run by We Are One Center by Glocal Roots. Why? Well, because this feels like the defining crisis of our time and I want to understand it, and how I can best help.
Four things I've learned already that you don't get from the news:
a) the crisis is not over and is in fact getting worse (UNHCR figures at https://data2.unhcr.org/…/situa…/mediterranean/location/5179 show that arrivals into the Mediterranean so far this year are already about that of 2017 and 2018 combined. This month alone 1455 refugees have landed on Samos).
b) refugees are 40% men, 36% children, 24% women
c) more new refugee arrivals in the Mediterranean are from Afghanistan (38%) than Syria (25%)
d) there is not enough space in official centres to shelter people, especially after a fire this month in the camp on Samos lost 700 people their accommodation.
Glocal Roots offers a community centre for women, used by 200 women and their 50 babies every day. Women can access classes and workshops (English, sewing, yoga, computer skills, medical support from Medecins Sans Frontieres, legal support), toilets and a washing machine, and have access to free basic food, nappies, and disposable menstrual products. The list of things needed for the courses and healthcare offered at the centre where I'll be volunteering includes cotton, for needle work, nail polish, tweezers and small beauty scissors, condoms, and funding for their rent, electricity and the food they offer. If anyone wants to contribute then let me know.
To be continued..
Elizabeth Gowing is a storyteller for those making positive change in the world. A writer and presenter who shares her stories on BBC Radio 4, she also offers training and consultancy. Use the contact form if you know stories that need to be told and want her help in telling them.