I've seen the human cost firsthand and I'm asking you to help today with winter clothes and medical supplies.
And when we hit $2,000 in donations, which will cover the bulk of costs for shipping winter coats and purchasing urgently needed medicines, I'll be sharing a short film I made with refugee teens the last time I worked on the island. It's never been shown publicly before. And anything above the goal will support Samos Volunteers, which provides educational activities in the camp.
(There's a lot of description here, or you can watch the 3 minute video above!)
Last year, I spent a month on the Greek island of Samos volunteering as an aid worker, teacher, and medical translator with refugees from Syria, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Somalia, Eritrea, and many more countries.
While on the island, I made YouTube videos documenting the work and raised $13,000 for supplies from generous friends and family (thank you again)! The work was incredibly rewarding and the fundraising far beyond my expectations.
I can't go back to the island just yet and am currently in New York City, but my heart is still with the people still on Samos and their need is great.
The way I'd describe this camp is like an open air prison for families, with about a thousand people living in shipping containers and a thousand living in tents. They're usually waiting months to get asylum elsewhere in Europe after fleeing either war or immense economic difficulty.
And those are the ones who made it - 3,000 migrants die every year just crossing the Mediterranean.
It. Is. Terrible.
The EU is still struggling to meet its humanitarian responsiblities, so NGOs like the Boat Refugee Foundation (who I worked with last year) and Samos Volunteers have been filling in.
Right now, the camp on Samos has 2000 people who are not prepared for winter.
Where the Money Goes
So I'm working with volunteers to raise money for two specific things and putting the rest of what we can raise to an amazing education group on the island:
1. Shipping winter clothes from a successful coat drive in the Netherlands to the island of Samos - I am working directly with the coat drive organizers, who previously worked for the Boat Refugee Foundation and they've gotten discounted freight shipping rates to the island. It's much more efficient than buying the winter clothes directly.
2. Urgently needed medicine. There's been a shift in the medical providers and one of the current doctors, Dr. Manos, who I worked with, is in need of daily medicines and supplies like bandages, etc. Generally this comes through donation, but they are running low and may need to purchase more locally. I'm working with a previous volunteer directly who lives on the island and works with Dr. Manos.
Any money raised that isn't used for meeting those two immediate needs (probably the first $2,000) will go to Samos Volunteers, a group I've worked alongside.
Samos Volunteers significantly improves the quality of lives of people stuck in the camps, through education for all ages in European languages for all ages, and a mobile library of many people's home languages, legal aid seminars for asylum interviews, and maintaining a warehouse of basic supplies for when refugees first arrive.
When migrants get off a boat, they tend to have nothing but the clothes on their back. That basic supply kit of clothes, socks, underwear and sandals? It costs about $12.
With your help, I would like to fund as many of those kits as possible. Funding 3 of those as a donation might help 3 people a lot, and it's the cost of a lunch tab for a lot of people not living in a refugee camp.
Now - I've got a little bonus to add to the usual fundraiser request:
Last year on Samos I worked with a group of unaccompanied minors - teenagers who had fled by themselves. I taught a videography seminar in the shelter they lived in and we made skits every week.
At the end, they took footage of the island with cameras we received as donations and they interviewed each other about their lives and dreams. It was their final class project. Alongside the students, I edited it. My friend Yusuf provided a score. It's called "my samos".
I think you'll like it.
Until now, the movie has only been screened on that island when we finished the class.
But now, after if you donate, I'll send you the 3 minute film.
And we hit our funding milestone, I'll release the film to everyone.
I appreciate your help a lot. It means the world to help strangers you will never meet. Thank you and please feel free to message me with any questions!
When do I need the funds?
I'm going to be sending a donation before Christmas. It's based on the coat drive's progress and the final purchase order for medicine (will vary based on donations received in the next week). I do imagine I will keep the campaign up for some time as it took a few weeks for it to peak previously.
How will the money NOT be used?
It won't go to me. I am not asking for a single dollar for myself or any costs here.
Why aren't you going yourself?
Last year, I was working as a fully remote freelancer and was able to tell my clients I wouldn't be working for a month. They were receptive.
This year, I just started a new job and it's a bit too early to leave for a month. I do hope to go back, or otherwise find proxy volunteers where possible. Reach out if you're interested! Samos Volunteers is searching for more people to teach in the camp. I can answer questions about safety, logistics, etc or introduce you to people working there.
How will the money get there?
I'll be sending it via PayPal to one of the volunteers in the Netherlands, doing bank transfers for the medicine to Greece, and donating online to Samos Volunteers (or a bank transfer if they prefer).
If you require proof of the bank transfer after the campaign closes or hits a certain point, I can provide that as well.
Hey, I donated to your other campaign. You owe me a custom thank you video!
Last time, I offered a video thank you to everyone who gave over $23. I'm a little backlogged on the 100 videos I need to send out so I didn't do that again. But those videos happen or you can forgive me about not expecting that much interest!
How important is this?
What else can I do besides donate?
There are refugees all around the world; you can help them practice languages or just welcome them to your country. The International Rescue Committee is a solid place to start for finding refugee aid programs near you.
You can also share this post (with a note as to why you think it matters!) to your social networks.
How do I know you are a real person?
I'm pretty sure I am one. But for verification, you can find me on Twitter under @shahzad or facebook.com/shahzad.ahsan or look up the videos and campaigns I made earlier.
How can I follow along?
Donors will get updates from me on this campaign and the film, but subscribe to my infrequent newsletter which will include what I learn from this campaign, as well as my travels and creative work, some of it related to this particular cause and storytelling at large.
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