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Serve the Refugees in Greece

$992 of $2,000 goal

Raised by 11 people in 17 months
Sometimes life throws obstacles in your path that change the very meaning of your life. You don't have the ability to control every change that comes your way. You must protect your family and yourself, no matter the cost. 
And so it is that thousands of refugees have poured into Greece. They've given up their homes and familiar lives to live in tent camps in a foreign country. How horrible were their lives before that living as a refugee in a tent was preferable? 
These refugees need help from everyone and everywhere. From clothing to hygiene kits to medical care, they need anything that can be given. 
A talented team of medical professionals, based in Utah, will be going to Greece in September to serve in a specific camp of Afghani refugees. I have been invited to join them both as a basic medical care provider (I am an EMT), and as a writer. They want me to come with them to document and share the stories of the refugees they meet. 
As for me, I have found myself in a bittersweet situation. I recently and very unexpectedly lost my job. On one hand this gives me the freedom and time to go serve. On the other hand, I have very little income. As you may know, I endured long-term unemployment a few years ago. Losing another job has been a painful blow for me. But I believe (as many of you do), that everything happens for a reason. And I truly believe God has often put me in situations where because other options (like a job) were taken away from me, that I am able to better serve His children. 
I know there are so many of you who wish you could go serve the refugees yourself. You donate clothing, etc. so generously to the causes that serve these refugees. But because of your responsibilities and obligations you don't have the ability to go serve them directly yourself. 
I invite you to send me in your place. I will personally place your donations in the hands of refugees. I will take their pictures and share their stories. You will learn what it is really like in a refugee camp, and what hardships they face. 
I have set this fundraiser at $2,000, but much more than that is needed. The money will go directly to sending the team (including me) to Greece, and buying medical supplies. The trip is in less than 8 weeks, so the sooner the funds are raised, the better. 
I am so grateful to know so many people who care about their neighbors and want to help others. I am grateful and humbled that you would allow me this chance to go serve as your proxy to God's children in Greece. 
(If you would like to make a tax deductible or corporate donation, please contact me directly. )
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I've been home for a few days now. And I feel bad that I'm late saying thank you to everyone who helped support me and Humanitize on this trip. I don't have a final head count, but my rough estimation is that we provided medical services to about 200 refugees. In addition to that we were able to leave them with medications and medical supplies. Our organization is sending a second team over in 3 weeks to continue the work we began.
Your donation made a difference and continues to make a difference. I can't thank you enough for allowing me to serve the refugees on your behalf.
Before the trip I told you that I was going along both in a medical support capacity and as a writer. I'm very happy to share that I've landed feature pieces with 3 different publications. Because these things are never truly final until they are in print, I can't yet share the names of the pubs. But once my pieces go live I will be sure to send you the links. This was what we were all hoping for when Humanitize invited me along- to be able to share the refugees' story with as many people as possible. And again, it was your donation that helped make all of that possible. I thank you again.
I've attached a few pictures from the camps.
I couldn't get enough cuddles from her!
That's a toddler playing under a house.
Kurdish camp built next to a dump
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Day 5, Day 3 in the camps
Today we went back to the first camp we visited. The doctors and a nurse set up a small clinic, and the support staff got sent to the warehouse to assist. (A few other people went out to scout other nearby camps to see if they could use us in the future.) I was in the warehouse. Facebook users will see some of the pictures I took of the experience, and see my rant about donating used clothes. It might come across as an exhausted rant. But for the record, I ran it past several other people here before I posted it. They all agreed with it and backed me up. What we saw today was a giant mountain of clothes in a crazy, unorganized warehouse. They have volunteers come in, sort the mountain, from a “mass to macro to micro” level. (Women’s clothes, to women’s winter clothing, to women’s winter divided up by size.” They have a giant room set up as sort of a shopping area. Once a month a family gets to come in and “shop” for clothes they may need. Volunteers hang the clothes out seasonally in the shopping area. It sounds like a good plan, but because it’s all handled by rotating and disappearing volunteers, it’s really just a giant mess. If you look at the pictures I shared online you will see a mountain of boxes and garbage bags, as well as a mountain of clothes. We were told that one year ago the entire room was a mountain of clothes. And they continue to work on getting it sorted and packed. With the original 4 of us working on it for 3 hours we made a significant dent. When the rest of the team finished their duties and came to help us, we made a massive dent in the warehouse. We easily packed over 100 boxes up at the micro level and got them organized. The pictures of the clothing mountain don’t do it enough justice. (Juxtaposition and perspective make a difference in a photo like that.)
The clothes in that mountain had been there for over a year in many cases. People may have good intentions when they donate their dirty clothes, but they don’t realize the impact it has down the road. A pair of dirty jeans that is donated to Salvation Army in Virginia will get sorted and boxed, and eventually (if deemed not good enough to sell in one of their stores), shipped in a container ship across the globe to Greece, where it eventually is sorted to a nonprofit like ours, and then dumped into a warehouse, where it takes over a year for volunteers to sort it and get it distributed. Those dirty jeans have festered through all sorts of conditions and climates to get to that point. And then it reaches me, standing in that warehouse, where I have to touch and smell it. And probably gag over it too. It’s disgusting. And yet I will probably still put it in the pile to get distributed. Some poor refugee will eventually pick it off the shelf on their one day of allotted shopping. And then have to spend their very limited money to use the coin operated washing machine to wash the jeans over and over until they are wearable.
This particular camp is closing down over the next few months. (There are several reasons why, most boil down to because the government says they have to.) As a result, 500-800 refugees now need new homes. The camp is seeing a huge uptick in “disappearances.” These are refugees who have found and paid for a smuggler to get them to Germany or Sweden. Once a deal has been struck with a smuggler, the person disappears with little to no warning. In most cases, it costs about $2,000 or more to get smuggled out. And in most cases, a family is only making $90-300 per month. You can imagine how long it takes to save up $2,000 in those circumstances. Once they arrive in their new country, they can apply for asylum, and then in time, reunification with their family.
In other news, after 5 days of 14 near strangers traveling together, today we seemed to finally drop our private boundaries and really bond. Two days ago we were all still very stiff and polite, and maybe when exhausted, passive aggressive with each other. Today, there was a lot of laughter. Laughing until we were in tears in many cases. Because the volunteers that run the camp close up shop around 4:30, we had to vacate at 4:30 as well. (Just another reason to roll my eyes at that camp. They lock the refugees in at 4:30 and come back for them the next morning. It’s just a poorly run camp. I don’t care how good their intentions are. They could do so much better.) Because we were free at 4:30, and that camp is only 10 minutes from our villa, we had a lot of free time. We took advantage of the free time by going down to the beach and relaxed for a few minutes. (A good whopping hour of free time!) Technically it is the Aegean Sea, but we like calling it the Med. It’s a bit rocky, but crystal clear. I walked out to waist deep and could still see my feet just fine. One person brought a snorkel mask with her, and found 2 seahorses in the water. We all took turns looking at them with the mask. They were about 4-5 inches long. It really was one of the coolest ocean experiences I’ve ever had. By dinner time we were all laughing and trading inside jokes. It was nice for us to finally all come together as friends.

I write these emails after everyone has gone to bed. I've been up since 4 am and it is nearly midnight here. I apologize for the rambling nature, and if I made any dumb writing mistakes. If I don't write it all down now I will forget something.

Again, I appreciate all of your support.
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Just a portion of the medications and supplies purchased with the medications donated by people like you.
We've worked in 2 very different camps so far and visited a third (we will go back to work there tomorrow).
At the first camp somewhere between 500-800 people are living in a converted chemical factory. (See the colorful walls in picture below.) It's a very humble place. We are very limited in the pictures we can take there. If a resident sees you pull out a phone/camera they will immediately say "no facebook. No what's app." And cover their faces. At the second camp we found the opposite. Not only did they have no problem with pictures, they would come out and line up for you to take a picture of them.
The instant camera/film pictures have been a huge hit. I have to keep the camera hid or else the children will never stop asking for "2 more, my friend, 2 more." At the second camp after I started to take pictures the parents disappeared back to their rooms to bring out sleeping babies so I would take their pictures too.
Overall I believe in our first 2 days of providing medical care we have seen approximately 70 people. And we will continue to keep serving them and bringing them medical care.
We did some quick recon work at a third camp yesterday. As soon as we stepped out of our van (wearing medical scrubs), we heard voices saying "doctors, doctors." Word got out quickly in their small compound, and people began lining up to show us medications and ask us for help. We learned they hadn't seen a doctor in over a month there, and they had many sick people who need help. We go back tomorrow with our full team to bring them the help they need. The picture of the bathroom is from that camp. Look at how the bathroom sinks don't have pipes to the walls. Water flows right through them into the hole in the floor. Look close to see the yellow hose on the left. That's the shower. This is one of the better bathrooms I have seen here.
Please keep an eye on my Facebook page "Author Erin Ann McBride" for more pictures and stories.
Thank you all again for your support!!!!
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An absolutely beautiful thought from Pope Francis this morning. It applies perfectly to the refugees, doesn't it? Christ will meet us through them.
Matthew 25:40 "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me."
How can you not help the refugees with words like these?
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Raised by 11 people in 17 months
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