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29 June 2017 / 4. Shawal 1438

Zainabiyya Alliance for Refugees Volunteer Blogs

Posted on Mon, 2015-12-14 15:42

Europe Refugee Crisis - Trip 2  

Volunteer reflections from Lesvos, Greece

9 December 2015

On 4th December 2015, The World Federation joined Ahlul Bayt Islamic Mission, Council of European Jamaats, Imamia Medics International, Islamic Centre of England and Majlis Ulema Europe under the banner ZAINABIYYA ALLIANCE FOR REFUGEES to lead a second trip to Greece to assist refugees arriving on Europe’s shores by sending volunteers and aid to different areas, starting with the Island of Lesvos. The following is a daily report from a volunteer of our team’s work in Greece. Volunteers provide vital support in our humanitarian missions across the world and we thank all of those who are serving in Greece on this trip. 

Moria camp is quiet and quite peaceful today as only a few boats arrive due to rough waters. The refugees in the camp are so happy to be alive and out of harms way; they are singing, dancing and discussing future plans. Today is a good opportunity to implement some of the new ideas. We are happy to be able to implement some changes:

We make signs for the toilet and water;

We receive permission to access the blankets in the compound and go around at 2:00am to distribute them to those who need one;

We speak to the compound kitchen about making soup at night.

             

It’s quiet just now and I am sitting with some of the Moroccans I got to know from the day before. I ask them about their journey to Greece. They explain how the smugglers were rude and how they bullied and robbed them. They narrated how their boat ran out of petrol and stopped in the middle of the sea causing them to drift to shore; for four hours, everyone in the boat cried and recited the Kalema. The boat started with 57 people on board and 6 were soon killed by smugglers. Some of the men lost everything when smugglers dumped their suitcases in the water. The more they tell me, the more I am shocked. They share their food with me and take pictures with me. They keep thanking me. 

At this time, a bus arrives and I take my leave to join the other volunteers to help with the new arrivals. The whole Moroccan group I was sitting with stands up to help us and reassure the newcomers that everything will be alright. This is a beautiful and touching moment. I see their loving hearts in a second.

In this new group that just arrived is a new-born baby girl and a woman in labour is sent to the hospital to deliver her baby. We take 20 people in a van to the compound and help settle them in. Luckily, the camp is not full tonight so everyone is sleeping comfortably.

At 3:30am, we leave to go back to our hotel for the night. 

DONATE ONLINE: SYRIAN REFUGEE CRISIS (EUROPE REFUGEE CRISIS)

In Europe, click here

Rest of the World, click here

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Europe Refugee Crisis - Trip 2  

Volunteer reflections from Lesvos, Greece

8 December 2015

On 4th December 2015, The World Federation joined Ahlul Bayt Islamic Mission, Council of European Jamaats, Imamia Medics International, Islamic Centre of England and Majlis Ulema Europe under the banner ZAINABIYYA ALLIANCE FOR REFUGEES to lead a second trip to Greece to assist refugees arriving on Europe’s shores by sending volunteers and aid to different areas, starting with the Island of Lesvos. The following is a daily report from a volunteer of our team’s work in Greece. Volunteers provide vital support in our humanitarian missions across the world and we thank all of those who are serving in Greece on this trip. 

I am the team leader tonight and feel so nervous – will I be able to carry out my responsibilities?  We arrive at the camp and there is so much chaos. We receive 15 boats with 45 to 60 people per boat. I spend 4 hours in the ‘jungle-side’ and help the many neglected young Moroccan men. About 19 young men need dry clothes, blankets and tents. I speak to them in French and get them the very basic essentials they need. We do not have enough blankets and sleeping bags and encourage them to share. People are becoming miserable. I am making half promises that I will come back, but am unsure if this is even possible. 

David and I take 8 families including many children to the compound to get them placed. David is a volunteer from Canada; originally from China, he speaks Arabic and is our translator. At the compound, we join the long line to receive shelter, blankets, and clothes. In the queue, we see pregnant women, the elderly and the disabled. As we settle the families in, one Iraqi man volunteers to make room by sleeping outside; others followed suit. Tonight, there is no hot food. I meet Amir, a medical volunteer and tell him that the camp needs hot food. To my amazement, he brings 100 hot dishes of rice and vegetables for the new arrivals. 

It’s 3:00am and with the large influx of refugees, we are short of volunteers tonight.  Even the medical tent is used as a shelter tonight.  I notice people sitting at the bottom of the hill without blankets, jackets or even a fire. Further down, I find Syrian refugees with young children sleeping on rocks on the side of the road. There is a man guarding them who is part of their group. I take some of these families to the UNHCR shacks while the other young men remain behind to sleep in the open air. We do not have enough blankets for these men, so we provide them with baby blankets; those who do not get a blanket begin to pace to stay warm. 

In the morning, the compound is empty as refugees move on to their next destination. We spend this time cleaning the camp for the next batch of people who will begin to arrive soon.  

Tonight, many new ideas begin to unfold in my mind to help ease the plight of the refugees under our care. We could:

Distribute hot soup at night to feed the newcomers in the compound side;

Distribute blankets at 10:00pm and again at 2:00am;

Provide a special tent that would be a safe and peaceful place where people of all faiths could pray, reflect, connect with God or even cry; I see many people offering their prayers outside in the cold on the stone ground surface

Place signs (with different languages) that point to toilet, water, medical, and clothing tents;

Set up proper showers 

We arrive back at our hotel at 7:00am.

DONATE ONLINE: SYRIAN REFUGEE CRISIS (EUROPE REFUGEE CRISIS)

In Europe, click here

Rest of the World, click here

JAMAAT TREASURER

Donate directly to your Jamaat Treasurer


Europe Refugee Crisis - Trip 2  

Volunteer reflections from Lesvos, Greece

7 December 2015

On 4th December 2015, The World Federation joined Ahlul Bayt Islamic Mission, Council of European Jamaats, Imamia Medics International, Islamic Centre of England and Majlis Ulema Europe under the banner ZAINABIYYA ALLIANCE FOR REFUGEES to lead a second trip to Greece to assist refugees arriving on Europe’s shores by sending volunteers and aid to different areas, starting with the Island of Lesvos. The following is a daily report from a volunteer of our team’s work in Greece. Volunteers provide vital support in our humanitarian missions across the world and we thank all of those who are serving in Greece on this trip. 

Today, the boats are full of families with babies. Like yesterday, we follow the boats with our cars and meet the families as they arrive. When the passengers disembark, we begin wrapping the babies in emergency blankets and cut the emergency blankets to wrap people's feet with so as to create a barrier between their wet shoes and their feet. Only limited supplies of dry shoes are available at the camp so we prepare everyone we can. The UN bus comes and we get everyone on.

Today we witness some locals swearing at the refugees; if only they can understand their struggles and hardships and display some compassion.

Tonight we have a group meeting. Our team is caring and we work well together. We work in pairs and all have headlights and walk talkies; in fact, we are the only volunteer group with walk talkies which are very useful.  I spend a few hours in the ‘jungle-side’ guiding Moroccan refugees in French. After this shift, I head to the compound and learn that so many people are sleeping on the road in 0 degrees Celsius temperature. By 2:00am, we manage to provide shelter for these families, albeit in shacks that are freezing cold. The babies are sent to the compound where the rooms are heated.  

There is an older gentleman who needs a blanket and follow him up the hill. He takes me to his fire where his relative is sitting. I get a tent for him from the ‘jungle-side’ and provide him with two blankets and two food bags from the compound. I find two young people to help set up his tent. He is so thankful. 

DONATE ONLINE: SYRIAN REFUGEE CRISIS (EUROPE REFUGEE CRISIS)

In Europe, click here

Rest of the World, click here

JAMAAT TREASURER

Donate directly to your Jamaat Treasurer


Europe Refugee Crisis - Trip 2  

Volunteer reflections from Lesvos, Greece

6 December 2015

On 4th December 2015, The World Federation joined Ahlul Bayt Islamic Mission, Council of European Jamaats, Imamia Medics International, Islamic Centre of England and Majlis Ulema Europe under the banner ZAINABIYYA ALLIANCE FOR REFUGEES to lead a second trip to Greece to assist refugees arriving on Europe’s shores by sending volunteers and aid to different areas, starting with the Island of Lesvos. The following is a daily report from a volunteer of our team’s work in Greece. Volunteers provide vital support in our humanitarian missions across the world and we thank all of those who are serving in Greece on this trip. 

Today we are spending the day at the shore to watch for and receive boatloads of migrants and refugees making their way to Europe. We are watching for these boats from our cars and then following them to meet them as they dock on the muddy shores. As they arrive, the refugees are shouting the shahada and kalema and waving their hands. We receive the children first; the female volunteers receive the women refugees and the male help the men off the boats. The cultural respect that the volunteers have for the refugees is heart-warming. When the refugees arrive, they are crying, even the men. The babies are crying. These families are then escorted to the next group of volunteers further up the road who help take their belongings to the transport services.   

I notice a young a couple who is unable to get up and are both crying. Unfortunately, none of us speak Arabic. The woman keeps pointing to her body and her husband then indicates that his wife had a miscarriage on the boat. We notice her clothes are covered with fresh blood. We cover her with emergency blankets so she can disembark from the boat. We make a make-shift shelter for her and give her clothes and a diaper (we have no female sanitation pads) to change into. There is a chai stand nearby where a Malaysian volunteer is giving tea to people; Justine and I take the woman there to get something warm and soothing to drink. As we throw her clothes away, she feels the devastation of losing her unborn child and bursts into tears. I do not understand what she is saying, but we are both crying. 

A few young men are on the stairs and we instruct them to wait there for the UN supplied bus that will soon arrive to take them to the refugee camp. Some journalists begin to arrive and see the refugees, who by this time are happy that they made it alive and are celebrating. An elderly lady starts to cry and tells her story; she must be 80 years old. It seems she lost a lot and is totally alone. I suppose she lost a lot of family members. 

The bus arrives and we help everyone on. The lady who had the miscarriage is given a seat by the young men who boarded before her; all the other men stand up and walk to the back to make room for the women and children in the front. There is so much love and respect in the group. 

The bus makes its way to the camp and some of us follow them to provide more assistance. Other volunteers make their way back to the shore to receive more boats. When we arrive at the camp, I take the distraught couple to the medical tent for urgent medical care.

DONATE ONLINE: SYRIAN REFUGEE CRISIS (EUROPE REFUGEE CRISIS)

In Europe, click here

Rest of the World, click here

JAMAAT TREASURER

Donate directly to your Jamaat Treasurer


Europe Refugee Crisis - Trip 2  

Volunteer reflections from Lesvos, Greece

5 December 2015

On 4th December 2015, The World Federation joined Ahlul Bayt Islamic Mission, Council of European Jamaats, Imamia Medics International, Islamic Centre of England and Majlis Ulema Europe under the banner ZAINABIYYA ALLIANCE FOR REFUGEES to lead a second trip to Greece to assist refugees arriving on Europe’s shores by sending volunteers and aid to different areas, starting with the Island of Lesvos. The following is a daily report from a volunteer of our team’s work in Greece. Volunteers provide vital support in our humanitarian missions across the world and we thank all of those who are serving in Greece on this trip. 

We arrive in Greece at 7:30am. After checking into our hotel, having breakfast and a debriefing with our team leader, we head for the town of Moira where one of the camps is set up. From the edge of the town, the camp resembles a jail. The barbed wire and high white walls give an impression of imprisonment and leave me wondering - "Are these people refugees who need help, or are they prisoners being punished?” 

We then proceed to an area of the camp referred to as ‘jungle-side’ because of the cluster of tents spread out on a bumpy hill surrounded by litter, rocks, mud and clothes. Everyone staying here is cold and desperate for a blanket. Sitting on the cold ground doesn’t help. To stay warm, one must move around the camp to keep the blood flowing. I was happy to see the ‘chai and food’ tent. The European volunteers who came before us did a wonderful job in creating a warm environment here at the camp to make it easier for the refugees to deal with the hardships. Many of these volunteers don’t speak the language or understand the culture, but they are simply good human beings serving humanity. 

The medical camp is amazing and is very warm and welcoming (physically and emotionally). There are playground games organised outside the clinic and I’m inspired to see how thoughtful the volunteers were in arranging for the small things to bring joy into the children's lives amid all their struggles and chaos. I see medical volunteers dealing with patients with great forbearance and consideration. The translators are helping so immensely and I realize immediately how vital they are in this situation. I wish I could speak Arabic or Farsi. Nonetheless, I use my Urdu skills as there are Pakistani and Afghani people who needed translators as well.

I begin to converse with the people here to hear of their stories and understand what they are feeling. We help with the sorting of clothes donated for the refugees and notice how some of the clothes had holes. I thought to myself – ‘how can people wear these and who would donate such clothes?’ The purpose of charity becomes clearer to me and I understand better how and why we should give in the spirit of giving, not in the spirit of throwing away. The dignity of the people we are helping is paramount when we are giving and we must consider this always. 

We walk up a hill towards the compound. As we cross the road I see toilets on the roadside; they are filthy and the smell is unbearable. I wonder how the elderly walk up this hill.  I see two generators powering two vending machines.  There is a charging station at the bottom of the compound, but not enough chargers; furthermore, not everyone is aware of this charging station.

We walk into the compound which from the outside looks like a jail. There is a 10 metre high chain link fence along the perimeter where a guard is stationed to grant permission to those who wish to enter. There is a long line up of people waiting to register at the camp. If people leave the line, they will lose their place and may have to wait another day to register; this in turn means another freezing cold night without adequate blankets and sleeping bags. Angela, one of the volunteers at the camp is distributing food and warm drinks to the people in line. 

The compound rooms are warm, but the smell is almost nauseating. The shower is located at the bottom of the hill. People don't have access to basic hygiene supplies and resources here. At least they have a warm room. People are sleeping on dirty mattresses or blankets on the floor. There are some bunk beds too. Mainly families with children are staying here.  Outside, children are playing with volunteers. While there is enough food provided to the residents here, there is a lack of clean water and hot food.  

There are also stand-alone shacks which are not heated and house up to 4 or 5 families. Further down, there are a few clowns providing entertainment for the families; these entertainers are a group of independent artists from Belgium and the US and people are really connecting with them. 

A van arrives with hot food where containers of rice, vegetables and naan are distributed to the people. Another group arrives from Belgium and they are giving away cereal bars and fruits. Mashallah! I join in with them to hand out food and am very inspired by their generosity, the love and the way in which they are giving; how they are talking to people with respect is amazing. 

DONATE ONLINE: SYRIAN REFUGEE CRISIS (EUROPE REFUGEE CRISIS)

In Europe, click here

Rest of the World, click here

JAMAAT TREASURER

Donate directly to your Jamaat Treasurer


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