Building a new life without a familie

Before I came to Greece last May, I was a social worker who dealt with students from sixteen until eighteen years who didn’t want to go to school. With these experiences I started teaching English-1 to the unaccompanied minors who live in the shelter. At first I wasn’t to excited about it, because how would I motivatie fifteen- and sixteen year old boys to come to my class and how would I make it fun for them? From the first moment I started teaching I found out that all my preconceptions weren’t true. De students immediately got their books and were ready for the class. Despite the difference of levels of the students, there isn’t a student who is bored or can’t keep up with the others. De boys all help each other out and if one isn’t serious enough, the others will correct him.

I’m teaching for more than four weeks now and sometimes I forget that these boys all came to Greece by themselves. They already had an adult life behind them and they’re not even on their final destination yet. It is nice to see that the boys in the shelter have space to be kids again: gaming, putting the music a bit to loud, don’t want to get out of bed and relaxing. Their is a group of caregivers who give them the space to be kids, but who also prepare them for life after the shelter. It is incredible how the boys deal with the whole situation. They’ve had a hard and complex journey. They’re here without their family in a different culture and sometimes they don’t even know what will happen to them after this. Despite that they still want to work on their future and deal with the everyday things: listen to Justin Bieber and bother the kittens who live with them.

Text: Corien Tiemersma
Photo: Bas Bakkenes

May 7 2015 – May 7 2016

1 year Boat Refugee Foundation!

How could that be reason for celebration, you might say? And justifiably so. To celebrate that you are in existence for a year, as an aid organisation, somehow feels a bit off. But then again, we can celebrate the help we were able to give this past year:

800 volunteers working, letting their hearts speak and rolling up their sleeves on Malta, Lesbos, Kos, Leros, Samos and in Athens and Idomeni. We were able to help tens of thousands of refugees with their first shelter, clothing, a place to sleep, food, drink, relaxation, medical care and personal attention. A warm welcome in the midst of all despair!

40 employees ensure that all teams in Greece are able to do their work well. That the planning is correct, the volunteers are being screened and prepared, that the supplies are all in order, the boats are able to head out, the teams are complete, that everybody does what it expected of him or her.

This way, we all contribute to the well-oiled machine which is now the Boat Refugee Foundation. From a small group of volunteers to a professional organisation with a firm foundation. Of that we are super proud!
Our annual report for 2015 is nearly finished. It was a hell of a job, it being a first time. We hope to put it online next week.

Thank you for your support this past year! Will you continue to follow us? Now that we will go full steam in 2016 to offer a helping hand to refugees?

Dutch Remembrance Day – When freedom costs you your life

Tonight we commemorate the victims of war. For the employees and volunteers of Boat Refugee Foundation that were or are active in Greece, this Remembrance Day will have an extra layer. The war came really close. The consequences of worldwide conflicts, in particular in the Middle East and Afghanistan, can be seen daily in our work. We also remember the many boat refugees that lost their lives at sea this year, or on their way to Europe.

We got this movie from Arianne Kattenberg. Last April she was on a medical mission via Doctors of the World, one of the alliance partners of the Boat Refugee Foundation. Together with this organisation we work in Camp Moria.
Arianne Kattenberg: “This film is about the dreams of refugees and their right to speak their minds. Now Europe decides their fate. Unfortunately this violates a great number of human rights and the situation is horrible, also on Lesbos. I want to send this message to the world so the more times this gets shared, the better. Together we must stand firm for this.”

Athene – Just to be child again for a moment

Evelien travelled for Boat Refugee Foundation to Elleniko in Athens and tells her story.

As soon as we get off the bus at Elleniko, children run to meet us. Whilst three volunteers walk around the camp to get the children, I walk around with our automatic bubble blowing machine. The children love it. They all try to get close to pop as many bubbles as possible. A father carrying his young son of about two years old joins the fun, and we laugh at his little perplexed face as a bubble pops on the tip of his nose. From the corner of my eye, I even see some older women laughing, and grabbing bubbles. It is a great success.

After, the children get to crawl through a caterpillar tunnel, one by one. Young and old; they all love it. The youngest ones are hesitant at first, but soon they also crawl through the tunnel, encouraged by the other children. Then playtime is over and all the children sit down in a row. We hand out cups and fill them with water. They deserve some refreshment after all that playing in the sun.

I then join the drawing and colouring. Another volunteer receives a drawing from an older boy. The image is clear; a rubber boat, filled with people, and next to that a large vessel carrying the Greek flag. Very intense. It is at those moments, when reality kicks in, that you realize everyone made such a journey. And how vitally important it is that these children can be a child again, because of what we do…

Photo’s and story: Evelien Florijn

Will you continue to support us? We really need your help!
IBAN account number: NL97 RBRB 0918 9326 37
f.a.o. Stichting Bootvluchteling

Athene – Activities with refugees

Volunteer Iris shares her experiences from Athens:

“1.700 people in one hall, permanent noise, no privacy and only six showers for these people. The stench in which these men, women and children have to live is indescribable. Children that have to sleep in a little tent all the time, under the most dire circumstances. It hurts me to see that children have to stay here. No school, no clean clothes. Sleeping on a small blanket on the floor. It’s dirty hear, really dirty.

Every day around eleven the children storm our way. Finally: going outside, fresh air, relaxing a little. We colour with them, sing and dance with the girls, while soccer remains the boys’ favourite. It is important that we provide structure during these hours. The same rules apply to everyone. You sit down first, then you get a piece of paper. You get to take one crayon at a time and you always put it back with the cap back on. In addition to this we feel it is very important that they learn how to play together and to share with each other.

When we are done at the airport, we move to the harbour. The children greet us enthusiastically every day. Here the children are also our focus. Soccer, songs, jump ropes and pavement chalk. Seeing the kids laugh is so very valuable. It’s difficult to see the situation.”