Hello friends, family, colleagues, and fellow community members:
My name is Denise Schoen. I was born at Southampton Hospital in 1971 and raised in East Hampton with my mother, father, and sister.
I now live in Sag Harbor with my incredibly supportive husband, Jon, and my two daughters, Emily (16) and Sara (12). I became a lawyer 19 years ago and have my own solo practice in my hometown of East Hampton. I am very fortunate to have an amazing staff there.
In my free time, I volunteer as a critical care EMT for Sag Harbor Volunteer Ambulance Corps. My husband’s grandfather, John Schoen, co-founded the ambulance and his family has a long history of volunteering on it. I joined in 2008. I quickly became an EMT-B and then an EMT-CC (critical care).
Many of you may be surprised to know that ambulances are now equipped as smaller versions of an ER room. We have over 100 medications we administer, we start IV lines, give life-saving drugs, intubate patients to deliver oxygen directly to their lungs, utilize and analyze a cardiac monitor, and can manually defibrillate patients in ventricular fibrillation. There are so many other interventions that it would be impossible to list them all.
I first became aware of the refugee crisis in Greece through my contacts on FACEBOOK, local newspaper coverage, and my knowledge of a grass roots organization called East End Cares. My sister, Melissa Mitchell, is a Member of that organization and has inspired me to join a group of aid volunteers on their trip November 25th to the “island of death” as it is sadly now known in Lesvos, Greece. As soon as I found out they were going, I felt an urgent need to travel with them!
We will be flying from JFK and other airports around the country through Italy and to Athens, Greece where we will meet and take a small plane over to the island. We will be traveling with and under the auspices of doyourpart.org, a 501(c)(3) organization, where you can donate directly to our trip so that we can purchase much needed supplies for the refugees.
When we hit the ground, we expect to volunteer for at least one day in the warehouse there to help organize supplies. We will then head to one of the camps where I hope to connect with an international doctor who has been instrumental in organizing the medical end of our trip. Many of those entering the island do so on tiny little overcrowded rubber boats. Those boats sink, take on water, and generally are very dangerous for crossing over the sea from Turkey to Greece. Nearly 10,000 people, on average, enter the country of Greece daily on these boats. They arrive hungry, cold, sick, injured or, worse, completely unresponsive.
It is my hope that I will be able to focus on those who are the sickest and assist the doctors and nurses in what they do best. However, I will do whatever is asked of me. If it’s changing a wet diaper, clothing a freezing child, or handing out sandwiches to those arriving, I will do it.
Am I nervous? Yes. Am I scared for my own safety? No. There is an incredible group of volunteers there now and the team I have joined is highly organized and we will not be put in any obvious danger. We are there to help, not become patients ourselves and drain the limited medical resources there already. Our team will consist of 10-13 people (the number changes daily) who are nurses, EMT’s, Ocean Rescue Squad volunteers, and other caring individuals who will help on an organizational level care for and assist those arriving on the beach and then in the camps. There is so much to do that we could bring 30 people and barely make a dent in the work that needs to be done every day.
However, my sister, my mother, and I have always believed in “The Power of One.” It is the concept that if we all thought our own individual actions could never make a difference, no one would ever help. Our world becomes smaller every day. I consider every one of those cold, scared, injured, and displaced people my extended community.
I would be so grateful of any assistance you can offer to defray the expenses for my travel arrangements to Greece and to purchase the medical supplies I need while I am there. Any funds left over will be donated directly to doyourpart.org to fund us while we are there and to continue funding them after we are gone.
This Thanksgiving, I give thanks to ALL OF YOU for supporting me and our team in this humanitarian effort to render aid to displaced individuals who have been forced to leave their homes and to encounter rough and deadly seas to bring their families to the shore for safety. Together, we can all make this world a smaller place. I have no doubt when I return home with our group that our lives will be changed forever.