Jacqui, Kevin, and 28,000 refugees
Jane Goodall once said, “What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.”
After months of watching the most dire humanitarian catastrope of our time unfold from a distance, we've made our decision:
On March 20, we leave for two weeks in Lesvos – a Greek island in the Aegean Sea that was once a tourist destination, and is now Ground Zero for the Syrian refugee crisis.
And this is where it gets tricky to know what to say next.
Do we try to paint the picture of what’s going on over there?
You’ve probably seen the same images we have:
The piles of orange life vests discarded like carcasses on a rocky shore.
The too-full rafts riding so low in the sea that the bodies of their occupants seem powered only by their own desperate hope.
Then we wondered if we should try to give some background on the crisis itself. What caused it, and what perpetuates it?
Honestly, its complexity defies simple explanation, but here's the gist:
What began as small, peaceful protests in Syria during the Arab Spring of 2011 escalated into full-blown civil war after their dictator launched a violent crackdown on dissenting civilians.
Since then, a handful of other opportunisitc, warring factions have joined in on the chaos.
The damage: Entire cities have been bombed into ruin. A quarter of a million Syrians have died. And nearly 11 million more (fully half the pre-war Syrian population) have fled their homes.
One of the most common routes: From Syria, through Turkey, and onto a raft to Lesvos.
We've read that an average of 2,000 refugees continue to wash up there every day, which means that during our two weeks on the island, we'll be joined by 28,000 men, women, and children who need our help.
How did we end up on this journey?
Last October, our dear friend Sheldon announced that he was leaving his family two days before Thanksgiving and going to Lesvos for a month to help the refugees.
We appreciated his willingness to help. We donated to his GoFundMe campaign. We shared the link.
And then we tried to ignore the nagging sensation that we can do more.
After all, we have lives to live! A wedding to plan! You know, important stuff.
Then one day, we sat down next to each other on the couch and watched this video.
Afterward, we spoke aloud the words we'd both heard for months in the private recesses of our own minds:
Let's go to Lesvos.
Not because we want to.
Let's go because we can.
It's that simple. We are blessed at this moment in our lives to have enough time and resources to help other human beings who really need it.
Which means that now we're the ones with the GoFundMe campaign, asking you to keep this precious cycle of giving and receiving going.
What will we do with the money?
Every penny we collect will directly support the refugees.
Their needs are somewhat variable, so we won't be able to say exactly what we'll purchase until we get on the island and meet with the organizers of Starfish Foundation (the phenomenal organization with which we'll be working), but here's how our friends who have already volunteered in Lesvos spent their donation funds:
1. Supplies for the refugees themselves (backpacks, duffel bags, shoes, sweatpants, underwear, etc).
2. Supplies for the cause (storage containers and shelving for the donations warehouse, toys for the kids tent in the camp, a router, generators, etc).
3. Volunteer-specific expenses (rental cars for getting to/from sites and shuttling other volunteers and aid workers, gas, etc).
Our ledgers will probably look very similar. We'll keep careful track of our receipts throughout our time on the island and update you on how the money is spent.
If there is anything left in the coffers at the end of our time on Lesvos, we'll do what our friend Sheldon did before us and donate it to Starfish Foundation.
As for our own expenses, they're taken care of.
We have an incredible sponsor and ally in Adventure Medical Kits. AMK has not only covered the cost of our travel to the island, but they've shipped us hundreds of pounds of supplies, from first aid kits to space blankets that we'll pack and bring with us.
Everything else, including food and lodging, we will pay for ourselves, out-of-pocket.
We're doing this because what we do makes a difference, and we've decided what kind of difference we want to make.
Please join us.
If you can, donate. If you can't, share this campaign with your community.
Every single penny donated to our fund will help a real, live human being who's having one hell of a tough time.
Let's make some lives better, together.
Have you seen the videos of volunteers forming a human chain in waist-deep water, from raft to rocks?
They unload the boats, passing babies overhead, then the children, then the women and men, until everyone has reached the shore and the team of doctors who wait for them there.
Kevin and I have just accepted an invitation to join the International Surf Lifesaving Association and the Hellas Lifeguards.
We'll be members of those human chains.
And we'll be taking the night shift.
Now that warships patrol the waters between Greece and Turkey, the refugees are forced to take greater risks, including traveling in the dark. That's when the majority of boats are arriving now – up to 200 in a single night.
Thankfully we're coming prepared.
The water is cold, but our Sonoma County surfer family has outfitted us in wetsuits.
There are sea urchins paving the rocks, but NRS is hooking us up with some badass booties.
Some of the refugees will arrive in near-hypothermic states, but Adventure Medical Kits has supplied us with 1,000 space blankets, shown in this photo.
What else do we need? At this point it's hard to say: It could be anything. It could be everything.
Right now Kevin and I are raising funds so that when we spot a need, we can fill it, no questions asked.
All of our personal expenses are covered, so every penny goes to the people who need it. We'll be sharing our receipts so you know exactly where the funds go.
Please support us, so we can support them.
Click here to give. And if you can't give, please share this link.
Thank you. ❤️
I'm so curious how this experience has shaped your thoughts, changed your views on the world, and any other insight you're able to share with us. I'm not sure how long you planned to be there, but it's been over a month since your first update (and I realize if you're still on lesvos internet might be less available). We'd love to hear how it's been going!