It wasn’t in any sense easier to be a refugee in 2017 than in previous years. More than 65 million people are forced to flee their homes due to war and conflict. This is a higher number than during World War II.
Around 30.000 people came to Greece, where A Drop in the Ocean is still present and contributing the best we can. More than 40% of these were from war-torn Syria. Even more people were intercepted in their attempt to reach the Greek islands.
When looking at the numbers one can easily be led to believe that the need for protection has decreased. In total, 170.000 people arrived across the seas to Europe in 2017, and ‘only’ slightly above 3000 souls were lost or drowned at sea. Many of those were children. This number is the lowest since 2014, hence the easy conclusion for a lower need for protection.
Europe has used effective ways to stop the flow of refugees. Vast amounts of money have been used to detain the refugees in Libya and Turkey. It is vital that we acknowledge that the need for protection is still the same, as is the hope for a life in safety.
2017 brought the opportunity for A Drop in the Ocean to do more of what we do well, as well as improve on other and new tasks.
As 2017 draws to a close, we are working in fewer locations in Greece, compared to the start of the year, but our responsibilities and tasks are greater than ever. An example of this is in Skaramangas, the largest refugee camp on main land Greece. An increasing number of NGOs are withdrawing from the camp, and simultaneously we are given more areas of responsibility.
The Drop in the Ocean volunteers come from 59 different countries. Out in the field they have accumulated 35.000 unpaid work days in the Greek refugee camps this year! We are so grateful to each and every one of you for your contributions!
Our volunteers continuously give us feedback on areas of improvements and what is running smoothly. This information is vital to our continued effort and improvement.
We have continued developing our concept; DropShop, which, while focusing on dignity, has distributed over 100.000 items of clothing and shoes in 2017. We have seen over 8000 visits from mothers and children in our mother/baby centre, and we have had around 12.000 participants on our English and German classes.
Also, the users of the popular sewing room have produced wonderful items from 3900 meters of fabric in the last 6 months!
Our small administration group have coordinated around 2000 volunteers to Greece this year. One can easily forget the effort being made home in Norway, but the administrative volunteers are committed to their work and have long since forgotten what normal office hours are like. It is very inspiring to be a part of such a hard working and dedicated team!
Even though the situation for refugees in Greece and in other countries is very hard, there has been some moments of happiness the last year. A few days ago I visited a family from Syria, which I met for the first time at our Drop In Centre in Athens in May. They were expecting their 6th child, and the beautiful little girl was born in Athens with one of the Drops as assistant during delivery. Now the family lives in Kristiansand and are learning Norwegian very fast.
Earlier this autumn we could see the wonderful syrian Drop, Abeer, reunite with her four daughters after almost two years separation. A magic moment for the family and the present Drops and friends. Another magical moment was to see young Bahez, who was seriously burnt in a fire in Moria, running around and playing like little boys are supposed to do.
We are very proud of our achievements in the past year, but truly wish that our efforts are not needed in the future. We wish that 2018 is the year where we see fellow humans seeking protection in Europe, welcomed in a humane manner. We hope the new year will give them all the opportunity to live their lives in dignity and raise their children in a safe environment.
Until this is a reality, we are obliged to show the world what is happening. We must not forget! Images of suffering children must never be mundane or trivial. We need your help conveying this message to the world!
We need you as volunteers in the field more than ever before, and we need your efforts and support here, at home. We have made great efforts together and we will continue to do our best also in the new year.
All the DROPS put together will make an OCEAN!
We welcome 2018 and wish all of you all the best for the New Year