Under the impersonal rubric of "refugee," hundreds of thousands of people displaced by war have been suffering before our very eyes. Currently over 60,000 (primarily from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq) remain stranded in Greece, many in appalling conditions. About 1/3 of these are children. This number includes a shockingly high number of unaccompanied minors (children under the age of 18, traveling on their own.)
The latest EU auditor report is particularly damning in its criticism of the lack of official support, especially for children. In the absence of such aid, small organizations and independent volunteers from all over the world have filled the glaring gaps. This is admittedly an unusual model of aid delivery -- but as has been well documented, it works.
For over two years, I have been one of those volunteers. I regularly travel to Greece, and support online from home in the interim; I am networked with hundreds of others. Through fundraising efforts, I’ve been fortunate and honored to be able to make a small difference.
I have so far traveled to Athens and to Chios 7 times. Most of the funds reflected in this crowdfunding campaign have already been spent on these previous trips; I am now fundraising for the next.
As I do every time, I will again buy and deliver bulk aid (such as food, hygiene supplies, clothes, shoes, diapers for babies, and toys for children.) But equally important in this ongoing crisis, is the ability to support the particular needs of individuals, families and small organizations. With the funds that I have raised, I have: paid rent for vulnerable refugees; temporarily put people up in hotels; bought medicines and specialized foods for and have otherwise supported those with medical needs; helped get documentation from his home country that will enable an unaccompanied minor to reunite with his family; bought airline tickets to speed up the (official) reunification of a family. I have also supported several organizations including the amazing donation-funded and refugee-run Chios People's Kitchen; the Chios refugee school; the Hero Centre, Chios; the Women's Center; the Amurtel Greece Centre for Refugee Mothers and Babies; the Khora Center in Athens; the asylum information group Refucomm and others. When a particularly dire need arises while I am not in Greece myself, I am able to help through these organizations and trusted contacts.
I am very well informed about the situation, knowledgeable about the needs, and experienced in meeting them. What I need in order to do so, as always, are funds. (Please do note that I cover my travel costs myself; 100% of donated funds always go directly towards supporting refugees.)
I have no trouble imagining myself and my children -- or yours -- among these "refugees." As the child of a Holocaust survivor that ended up a refugee in Turkey, and as an immigrant to the US myself, I know that we owe our comfort and safety only to accidents of history or geography. Please consider joining me in supporting refugees by contributing to my fundraising effort. Thank you very much.
Boston's Channel 5 and the Newton TAB recently featured my aid projects in Greece:http://www.wcvb.com/article/greece-helping-from-home/12468162http://newton.wickedlocal.com/news/20170131/this-could-be-me-newtons-leslie-meral-schick-aids-refugees-in-greece
(Note about the cover photograph: children spelling the word "Peace" in Souda Camp, Chios, Greece, on Nov. 22, 2016. Coordinated by Dalia, a young Syrian refugee)
(Boring disclaimer / fine print: Gofundme would like me to make the following points clear.
I am an individual volunteer and live in Massachusetts. I have been frequently traveling to support refugees in Greece, where I spend the funds that I collect through crowdfunding campaigns on the following items: food, baby food, diapers & wipes, clothes, shoes, blankets & sleeping bags, children's toys, arts & craft items, hygiene items (such as soap, shampoo, toothpaste, dishwashing soap, etc., etc.) I distribute many of these items myself to refugees in official camps where I work. I also donate massive amounts of food to camp and squat kitchens for central distribution. I will not be "sending the funds to the beneficiaries of the campaign" or distributing money per se, but will be personally spending the funds on the above items when on my next aid trip this winter.)