Samos – brave 8 year old

On my 5th day on Samos, there was an explosion of a gas cooker in a tent and four people were severely burned – a mother, father and their two children. With burns, every minute counts. We needed to pour water on them immediately, so you can only imagine my horror upon turning on the faucet to find out the water at the refugee camp wasn’t working (again).

An ambulance was called but past experience has taught us that we could not afford to wait for it. We rushed the family into cars and I did my best to hold the little girl’s feet in a small bowl of water. Though we had our Arabic translator with us, the family is Kurdish and couldn’t understand a word we said. I sang the English alphabet to the little girl and stroked her hair, praying her shock would not wear off just yet.

Our arrival at the hospital was not what I expected. On Samos, the hospital is under-staffed and under-funded and despite the severity of their burns, it was two hours before the children were treated. Two hours without pain medication. Two hours without even water. When they were finally seen by a doctor, the little girl needed an IV but was afraid of needles. Eventually it took six adults to hold her still and she screamed in agony the entire time. At that point, I was so glad I was positioned behind her because I could not stop the tears I had held in for so long. Amazingly, despite her excruciating pain, the little girl mustered the energy to comfort her little brother, telling him in Kurdish that it was going to be okay. I have never met a more brave 8 year old.

I spent the night in the hospital with those children, never leaving their side. I have also visited several times since, and have done everything I can to ensure that they have what they need…but there is little reason to hope for an acceptable outcome, let alone a good one. The family needs more medical care than the Greek system can provide. The little girl would need months of physical therapy to ensure her burns heal in a way that does not forever impair the use of her hands and feet.

We failed this family. I failed this family. But what happens next is something we have the power to change and we must do better. Even though I will leave Greece soon, this family will always be with me.

Text: Samantha Joseph (volunteer Boat Refugee Foundation)
Photo: Marjan van der Meer (We have no picture of the little girl in this story. This picture has been taken on another occasion.)

Samos – Out of sight but not out of mind

Out of sight but not out of mind, I hope. German Coastguard docked on Samos a few days ago unloading human cargo that included a 2-day old baby plucked from a flimsy raft floating on the Aegean Sea. The baby was born to a single Syrian mother in transit through Turkey so he is stateless, homeless, and might never be a citizen of any country.

Mateo Zevi – Volunteer

Samos – Several conversations #3

“A new arrival is sitting in a tent in a crowded leaning hill since that was the only place left. “I mean, we didn’t expect to enter to a palace, with people welcoming us with waving hands. We know it was going to be bad. Just not, this bad.” His brother has a tattoo saying “Life goes on.” I ask him about it. He answers: “In all the misery, I realised, life goes on. In double sense. My life will go on until I die, but life will always go on, even without me.” His father says: “It is Easter tomorrow! I want to go to church!” But they are stuck in an unprotected prison.
I can only hope they find the holes in the fences soon enough…”

Text en photo: Ronja de Boer

Samos – Boat Refugee Foundation recognized as major partner in UNHCR coordination mechanism

We were happy to be recognized this week as a major partner in the new UNHCR coordination mechanism for Samos, put in place by UNHCR Athens. We were the only volunteer group to be included in the development workshop, and we have been offered some major responsibilities, that speak to the professionalism and success of our organization in the field. The mission remains stable and we are on track with many of our projects and objectives. We are eagerly awaiting a more coordinated response to the humanitarian emergency developing here, and hope to be part of the high level professional working groups.
Will you continue to support us? We really need your help! IBAN account number: NL97 RBRB 0918 9326 37 f.a.o. Stichting Bootvluchteling

Matteo Zevi

Samos – Several conversations #2

“Are you okay?” he asked from one side of the gate.
“I am okay.” She answered from the other side of the gate.
“Why?”
“Because I believe.”
“In what?”
“Tomorrow. And if not tomorrow, the day after tomorrow, and the second day after tomorrow, until it doesn’t matter if tomorrow exist or not. I believe in tomorrow and when I do that, I am happy. In the Koran the prophet tells a story that from all the dead comes life. We take wheat grain, which is dead matter, create it into bread, that makes us live. Here, everything is bad. But within the bad, there are people. And I meet them, and they have other thoughts then me, different skin colour and different stories. And at least, we can create some understanding and produce some laughter. And I believe, that from the bad things that is happening to us now, there will be growing something good. Like dead wheat grain is the source of tasty bread.”

Ronja de Boer

Samos – Several conversations #1

Several conversations, written by volunteer Ronja de Boer.

“His first memory from entering the hotspot was people calling to him: “Welcome! Now you are stuck here with us!”
A big man with a bloody chest runs down the hill in the hotspot after cutting himself with a razor. Some people get him inside the police area where he wanders around restlessly, screaming sentences like “It is enough!” and “I can’t stand this anymore!”. He threatens to cut his own throat if somebody will come closer to him. The children are called by their parents, but some are with us in the medical area.
I ask a girl there: “Are you scared?” The girl shrugs her shoulders and answers: “This is not a big deal.”

Text and Picture: Ronja de Boer (vrijwilliger Stichting Bootvluchteling)

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.”

Samos – A look behind the scenes

On Samos our volunteers distribute breakfast and lunch daily in the hotspot, where refugees gather after arrival and are being placed, get medical care and food. The volunteers prepare the meals and see to a fair distribution.

Vluchtelingen in de rij voor voedsel